Chicago Teamsters Authorize Hostess Strike Pending Court Action
Local 734 Members Hold Steady Against Unfair Contract Terms
By an overwhelming vote of 190-1, Hostess workers represented by Teamsters Local 734 authorized a strike on Feb. 11, should the company impose unfair contract terms during its ongoing bankruptcy.
Local 734 members are part of the national bargaining unit of more than 7,500 Hostess employees, who've engaged in strike authorization votes over the past two weeks. The Teamsters Bakery and Laundry Conference stresses shared sacrifice with the company, which has received multiple wage and benefit concessions from the union since 2004 during previous bankruptcy filings.
"This is the second time in less than 10 years that Hostess finds itself in this position, and the solution will not be found on the backs of our members," said Brian Meidel, Recording Secretary of Teamsters Joint Council 25 and President of Local 734. "We want to do what we can to make this company viable again, but Hostess cannot be allowed to annihilate union contracts to repair its own mismanagement."
After filing for bankruptcy on Jan. 11, Hostess made a motion to withdraw from the Teamsters' multiemployer pension funds, reduce worker benefits and alter its collective bargaining agreements. A hearing is scheduled to begin March 5 and the judge has 30 days to issue a ruling.
In 2009, Local 734 Hostess employees alone sacrificed more than $132 in weekly base pay to draw the bakery giant out of bankruptcy. In its current filing for Chapter 11 protection, Hostess is shifting the focus of its attack from workers' wages to health and welfare and retirement benefits. The company already owes Local 734 more than $2 million in past due pension contributions after ceasing its payments to multiemployer funds in July 2011.
Local 734 represents 435 bakery drivers and workers with Hostess across Chicago.
"Teamsters nationwide authorized a strike by a margin of 9-to-1," said John T. Coli, President of Joint Council 25. "This vote shows that our members are ready to do whatever it takes to make sure Hostess does the right thing by its workers and respects their contract."
While awaiting its court hearing, Hostess has deferred another motion to initially approve a salary increase up to $1.5 million for the company's new CEO Brian Driscoll. Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer-Elect Ken Hall reminded Hostess this weekthat any significant attempt to save the company must include equal sacrifice for all stakeholders, including the CEO.