November 17th, 2012
A scapegoat is a person or group made to bear the blame for another’s actions, and usually they are easy targets to assign blame for something they had nothing to do with. Republicans have attempted to blame union labor for much of the nation’s economic woes in recent years and, yesterday, the Hostess Brands took a page right out of Republicans’ playbook and blamed a union strike as the reason they were shutting their doors and liquidating their assets costing 18,500 employees their jobs. However, much of the responsibility for Hostess shutting down lies with the company’s management and the private equity firm behind them, and yet union workers are the ones bearing the blame and subsequently will suffer the consequences of the shutdown.
Hostess Brands’ demise is a recurring story that should be well-known after Americans learned the predatory private equity tactics of Bain Capital during Willard Romney’s failed run for the White House. In fact, union president Richard Trumka pointed out that Wall Street investors that own Hostess were disinterested in the company’s success and cited similarities to the situation of Bain Capital and KB Toys in 2000. As a reminder, Bain Capital’s scheme was leveraging companies with crushing debt, cutting workers’ wages and benefits, and when the company can no longer repay their loans they go into bankruptcy, often more than once. Hostess is in bankruptcy for the second time since 2009 and a major factor in their inability to succeed is that over the past eight years, they were owned by Wall Street investors that were restructuring experts, managers from other non-baking food companies, and now a liquidation specialist. There was no plan for Hostess to succeed and it appears that was the objective all along.
Hostess’s failure was compounded by having six CEO’s in 8 years who had no experience in the bread or cake baking industry, and despite their financial woes, the company’s CEO got a 300% salary increase from $750,000 to $2,250,000, and other top executives received raises worth hundreds-of-thousands of dollars; all while the company was struggling. Instead of acknowledging the lack of competent leadership and exorbitant executive salaries as contributing to the company’s decision to close its doors, CEO Gregory Rayburn issued a statement saying, “We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike.” However, Rayburn and Hostess management claimed the strike would be responsible for closing plants even before there was a strike, and they had made plans to close plants whether or not workers accepted the Draconian wage and benefit cuts the company offered, or if they went on strike.
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