“Because kids don’t have a political voice, they have been neglected—and have replace the elderly as the most impoverished age group in our country. Today, 22 percent of children live below the poverty line.”
Nicholas Kristof, “Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy”
22% is a frightening, shameful number.
“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn said in a statement. “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,” Rayburn added. Union President Frank Hurt said on Thursday that the crisis at the company was the “result of nearly a decade of financial and operational mismanagement” and that management was trying to make union workers the scapegoats for a plan by Wall Street investors to sell Hostess.”
The closing of Hostess is union-busting, pure and simple. The company is already bankrupt (and never believe a company that tells you that it is bankrupt because it paid its workers too well), and its workers weren’t going to accept more race-to-the-bottom cuts.
I wish I had time to dig into this more thoroughly, but for now, as someone said to me on Twitter, they’re going to sell off their assets, fire all those workers, and destroy another iconic American brand in pursuit of the bottom line.
Imagine the good press if Hostess said “We want to stay open, and we want to pay American workers good wages and benefits, and we are struggling right now but we want to keep this brand alive.”
Instead, they’ll go the way of so many other companies that have used bankruptcy to get out of taking care of the workers that made them run.
And don’t worry, folks, you’ll still get your Twinkies: someone will no doubt buy the rights to the name and the recipe for everlasting phallic snack cakes. It’s just that you won’t know they were made by well-paid union workers anymore.
Not that most of you ever cared.
Last month, when strikers from Southern California arrived in Bentonville, Arkansas to protest Wal-Mart’s labor practices with reggae beats, pots and pans, and a Latin American-inflected protest culture, it became clear to onlookers that America’s superstore was no longer the small family business that Sam Walton had founded and grown in the cradle of the anti-labor culture of Southern evangelicaldom. But it’s also become clear that Wal-Mart’s own ambitions to become a global empire—expanding beyond southern suburbs to new regions, and continuing to erode protections for its workers—have brought the “family values” behemoth into confrontation with another kind of religious and labor rights tradition.
Wal-Mart has long been the Holy Grail for labor organizers. The nation’s largest retailer, it is notorious for its low wages, lack of benefits, abusive labor practices, and for leaving its workers dependent on public assistance while making the Walton family rich beyond imagination. And it has been nearly impossible to organize.
My dear friend and colleague Josh Eidelson has done a spectacular job of covering the nitty-gritty of the Wal-Mart strikes, and I didn’t want to simply rehash his work. So instead, I wrote about the strikes for Religion Dispatches and talked to workers for whom their faith was a motivating factor in organizing, to the brilliant Bethany Moreton about the changes in Wal-Mart’s culture as it moves into cities far from its rural white evangelical base, and to faith leaders and organizers who are fighting Wal-Mart’s low wages and lousy treatment of workers—and starting to win.
“This isn’t like a tampon commercial on television, leaving men awkwardly examining their fingernails. When it comes to women’s health, men as well as women need to pay attention. Just as civil rights wasn’t just a “black issue,” women’s rights and reproductive health shouldn’t be reduced to a “women’s issue.”