By John Van Hecke, Executive Director & Fellow, November 20, 2012 at 10:00 am
The Twinkie has been locked out by management. First, we had the American Crystal sugar processing workers. Then, pro hockey players. And, earlier this fall, the St Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra musicians. I see a pattern.
A great many management failures are laid at organized labor’s feet. The Hostess baking company’s recent collapse is only the most recent example. Blaming the bakers union is a weak cover-up of a poor business strategy. Forty years of successful conservative anti-working people, anti-government, anti-community messaging makes faulting workers the neat, easy narrative go-to. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the narrative is wrong.
The Twinkie and its related highly-processed, shelf-stabilized, genuinely not-good-for-you related product lines is a declining market. There’s no growth, just contraction. This has been the case for thirty years. The 1965 Corvette was a beautiful car but you’ll notice that General Motors isn’t trying to sell newly manufactured 50-year old autos. Why should the Twinkie be any different?
The Hostess brand collection has endured no fewer than two bankruptcies in the past decade. A revolving door of management teams and the frequent involvement of financing fee-hungry “turnaround” investment specialists strongly suggest that consumer engagement, responsible leadership and share-holder interests were the least important factors to corporate management. But, no one is blaming the folks that took their high salaries and stock-options, cashed in through refinancing schemes, while the company and brands continued stumbling. Instead, the blame is placed on modestly compensated, living wage employees.