A federal bankruptcy judge Tuesday approved the sale of Hostess’ Dolly Madison Bakery in Columbus to Flowers Foods, four months after Hostess shut down.
When Fred Newland was laid off along with thousands of other Hostess workers nationwide, his biggest concern was his pension. He had three more years before he could cash in. So he got a job at another company that had the same pension plan.
“Working for Bimbo Bakeries in Owensboro, Kentucky which is about 172 miles, one way, from my house,” Newland says.
Newland and four other workers are living in a camper in Owensboro while they work part-time. Every few days, they get a day off, time they use to make the three-hour drive back to see their families before they have to turn around and drive back to Kentucky.
Newland says he hopes Flowers Foods starts the bakery back up soon so he can return to Bartholomew County to be with his wife and son. But he will need the company to offer him a pension and a job.
“I hope Flowers does the right thing, and if they’re really wanting to make a go of it, I hope they realize, the people there, they could be passing up on a really good workforce,” he says.
But not all workers would be willing to come back. Larry Duncan is the business agent for Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union Local 132. He says about half of the former employees have moved on to other jobs.
“Some of them are looking forward to going back, but a lot of maintenance men got jobs that are paying more than they got when they were working there. Some of them will not come back.”
Others have gone back to school or have already switched careers entirely. Duncan says he does not think that will hinder the union’s ability to negotiate for pay and benefits, but legally Flowers Foods does not have to honor any part of the contract the union previously had with Hostess Brands.
Calls to Flowers Foods were not returned.