TULSA — The maker of Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Wonder Bread is calling it quits after a one-week strike by workers at Hostess Brands Inc. factories in Tulsa and nationwide.
The company closed all of its 36 factories Friday morning and filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to immediately liquidate Hostess Brands and sell its assets, hours after the company gave striking workers a hard deadline to come back to work.
A spokesman for Hostess Brands Inc. said the company's decision to shut down and liquidate is final, even if striking workers decided to come back.
“There is nothing to come back to,” Hostess spokesman Lance Ignon said “For all intents and purposes Hostess is done.”
Workers with Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union have been striking for a week and continued their walkout Friday over a proposal by Hostess Brands Inc. to cut salaries by 8 percent, reduce benefits and change overtime rules.
The Tulsa plant has 180 workers and produces bread and buns under the Wonder Bread line. The strike affects 18,500 employees nationwide at 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlets.
The shutdown clouds the future of some of the nation's most popular and longest-produced snack food and baked goods brands, which also includes Nature's Pride and Hostess snack foods such as Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, Donettes and Hostess CupCakes.
The company blames the shutdown on the union's refusal to make wage and benefit concessions. Union employees say they have taken significant cuts and that a decade of buyouts and executive missteps led to the bankruptcy.
“We've been through these kinds of threats before every step of the way,” said Doyle Briggs, a 26-year employee at the factory. “When we rejected the contract, they threatened to shut the company down. This is just more of the same.”
Briggs said workers plan to continue striking. Many striking workers in Tulsa hope Hostess hurries to sell the brands and assets so a new buyer can bring the plant back online.
Hostess Brands Inc. lost $340 million in 2011 and filed for bankruptcy reorganization in January.
The bankruptcy gave the company the means to renegotiate contracts with drivers, bakers and other employees, but it couldn't reach a deal with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
Tulsa employee Larry Chandler said union members already were upset with the company for not funding negotiated pension contributions and for a series of wage cuts.
“There haven't been any negotiations on this,” Chandler said. “They wanted us to take the deal or they would shut everything down.”
Hostess officials say union salary and pension commitments are too much for the company.
“We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Hostess Chairman and CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a statement Friday morning.
A Hostess spokesman said the proposed contract with bakers would have put the company in a position to be profitable again.
With factories shut down, some are wondering about the availability of local Hostess products. Bakery outlets continued to operate after the shutdown as well as some distribution, but that likely won't continue for long.
QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said the convenience store chain had plenty of Twinkies and other snack cakes in stock, but there are worries about bread and buns made at the Tulsa bakery.
He said Wonder Bread products are used on most of their roller grill items.
“When they went into bankruptcy we had to put in place a plan in the event that production stopped,” he said. “So we've had to go find another supply to provide for us.”
In the Oklahoma City metro area, grocery stories Friday reported dwindling supplies of Twinkies and other Hostess favorites.
Hostess Brands filed a motion that could allow a formal shutdown and liquidation of the plant as early as Tuesday.