SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 19, 2012

Twinkies maker lives at least another day

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Twinkies will live to see another day.

Hostess Brands Inc. and its second-largest union agreed yesterday to try to resolve their differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn’t gone through the critical step of private mediation. That means the maker of the spongy cake with the mysterious cream filling won’t go out of business yet.

The news comes after the maker of Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread last week moved to liquidate and sell off its assets in bankruptcy court. Hostess cited a crippling strike started on Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 30 percent of Hostess workers.

“Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike,” said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. “Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case.”

The mediation talks are set to take place today, with the liquidation hearing set to resume tomorrow if an agreement isn’t reached. Jeff Freund, an attorney for the bakers union, said any guess as to how the talks will go would be “purely speculative.”

In an interview following the hearing, Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said that there is enormous financial pressure to come to an agreement with the union by the end of the day today.

He noted that it’s costing Hostess about $1 million a day in payroll costs alone to stay alive, with the money mostly going toward management to unwind the company. About 18,000 workers were sent home Friday after the company shuttered its 33 plants, meaning no sales are being generated.

“We didn’t think we had a runway, but the judge just created a 24-hour runway,” said Rayburn, who added that even if a contract agreement is reached, it’s unclear whether all Hostess plants will get up and running again.

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