Motorists honked their support as they passed workers waving signs in front of Hostess’s Columbus plant off U.S. 31 on Tuesday. The bakery workers are almost a week into a strike they called to protest a contract they say makes unfair cuts to wages and benefits – a contract 92 percent of union members rejected earlier this fall.
They say they’ve made enough concessions to their employer, which is struggling to regroup as it goes through bankruptcy. So far, unionized workers at 25 of Hostess’s 36 plants nationwide have walked off the job.
Ashley Parker is the recording secretary for the local that represents 160 Columbus workers.
“It is a trying time to be out here and doing this but at the same time, I don’t want to go in there and work for twelve dollars an hour after I’ve already done my ten years to get to the point I am,” she says. “I can go and make twelve dollars somewhere else.”
Neither are Parker and the other workers who walked out deterred by Hostess’s claim that it will be forced to close all of its bakeries if employees don’t come back to work. The company announced Monday it would close plants in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Seattle because of strikers.
Dennis Howard represents with union’s international arm and says it might actually be better for the bakery workers if the plant does close.
“Quite honestly, with what these folks have been through liquidation’s not necessarily a bad thing if someone will buy the company, and actually run it, and want to be in the baking industry,” he says. “We’ve got generational people who work in these bakeries whose – their mothers have worked here, their fathers have worked here. And it’s a generational thing in this community where people have come to work here.”
Hostess Brands spokesperson Erik Halvorson says that is misguided thinking. He says forcing Hostess to sell the plants would end badly for everybody.
“There’s certainly no guarantee,” he says. “Iin fact there’s very little likelihood that if the plant closes it’s going to be purchased by someone who, um, necessarily wants to hire them. And it’s not a worthwhile gamble. We think their best option is to accept these changes and at the very least, to keep these jobs while they look for alternate employment if they think they can do better elsewhere.”
But Parker and Howard say the strike will continue until the company reconsiders the contract.