Twinkies Maker Hostess Going Out of Business, CEO Blames Union Strike

“It’s over. This is it,” Gregory Rayburn tells "Today."

Friday, Nov 16, 2012  |  Updated 12:20 PM PDT
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Striking Hostess employees picketed outside a factory in Atwater Village on Friday as the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, announced they were going out of business.

The news came after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said.

“This is heartbreaking,” Cynthia Prater, who was two years away from retiring as a Hostess employee, said during a break from picketing at a Hostess plant in Atwater Village that employed about 100 people. “There’s a lot of single parents out here. How are they going to take care of their kids without this?”

Related: Where have all the Twinkies gone? The "run" on retailers has officially begun.

Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said the company regret the decision, but "we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike."

The firm filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shutter its business.

“Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

Hostess Brands Inc. had earlier warned employees that it would file to unwind its business and sell off assets if plant operations didn't return to normal levels by 5 p.m. Thursday. In announcing its decision, Hostess said its wind down would mean the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores in the United States.

Hostess suspended bakery operations at all its factories and said its stores will remain open for several days to sell already-baked products.

The Irving, Texas-based company had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But thousands of members in its second-biggest union went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Officials for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union say the company stopped contributing to workers' pensions last year.

NBC's Savannah Guthrie read a statement on "Today" from the bakers' union that said: “Despite Greg Rayburn’s insulting and disingenuous statements of the last several months, the truth is that Hostess workers and the union have absolutely no responsibility for the failure of this company. That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the company’s decision makers.”

Rayburn responded that he had been “pretty straightforward in all the town hall meetings I’ve done at our plants to say that in this situation I think there is blame that goes around for everyone.”

He denied that the decision to shut down could be a last ditch negotiation tactic to get the union back to the table.

“It’s over,” he said. “This is it.”

Rayburn, who first joined Hostess earlier this year as a restructuring expert, had earlier said that many workers crossed picket lines this week to go back to work despite warnings by union leadership that they'd be fined.

"The problem is we don't have enough crossing those lines to maintain normal production," Rayburn told Fox Business.

Hostess said that production at about a dozen of the company's 33 plants had been seriously affected by the strike. Three plants were closed earlier this week.

The privately held company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. The company cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing. Hostess had argued that workers must make concessions for it to exit bankruptcy and improve its financial position.

The company, founded in 1930, was fighting battles beyond labor costs, however. Competition is increasing in the snack space and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating. Hostess also makes Dolly Madison, Drake's and Nature's Pride snacks.

If the motion is granted, Hostess would begin closing operations as early as Tuesday.

"Most employees who lose their jobs should be eligible for government-provided unemployment benefits," Hostess said.

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