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PORTSIDE  December 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE December 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Hostess Blaming the Workers until the Bitter End

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Sat, 8 Dec 2012 11:31:37 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (155 lines)

Blaming the Workers until the Bitter End - Company
has a Long History of Not Being the Hostess with the
Mostest

    Black drivers' routes included small black
    convenience stores while the white drivers got
    the big grocery chain stores.

By Jamala Rogers - Black Commentator Editorial
Board
BC
December 6, 2012

http://blackcommentator.com/497/497_vb_blaming_workers_cover_share.html

Hostess Bakeries was recently allowed to close its
doors when mediation between the union and the
company failed. In St. Louis, the company never
really changed its image or racist practices in 40
years. The ITT conglomerate was hit by a boycott
back in 1971 from ACTION, an interracial, direct-
action protest organization. Because all the ACTION
demands were never met, the boycott remained in
effect.

There were three unions that represent the 18, 500
workers across the country. They are the Bakers,
Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union
(BCTGM), United Food and Commercial Workers
Union and the International Teamsters Union.
Union workers stood tall and firm in their refusal to
be intimidated by the bullying tactics of the
company. They now all face unemployment.

When Hostess Brands announced it was seeking
bankruptcy (again) in the midst of contract disputes
with its union workers, the workers went on strike.
To add insult to injury, the company announced it
intended to pay $1.75 million in bonuses to 19 of its
executives. The company has been in bankruptcy
for about eight years of the last decade. It had
stopped paying into the workers' pensions, and
decreased health benefits but seemed to be taking
good care of its top execs.

Even as it was throwing the blame of the company's
dismal future at the feet of the workers, Hostess had
already given its executives pay raises earlier this
year. The CEO's salary tripled from $750,000 to
about $2.5 million. This doesn't exactly sound like a
company in financial trouble. It sounds more like a
company who wants to maintain superprofits for the
top execs and its shareholders on the backs of its
workers.

Back in 1971, a boycott campaign against Hostess
and Wonder Bread, led by Percy Green and ACTION,
proved to be incredibly successful even without the
internet and cell phones. Within a few months,
stores had snatched Wonder Bread and Hostess
products off their shelves. The protests and
subsequent reactions dominated the local news for
months.

Those brand names fell under ITT which stands for
International Telephone and Telegraph. At one point
the ITT portfolio included a number of seemingly
unrelated industries such as bakeries, hotels,
insurance companies and electronics for weapons of
war.

To add insult to injury, the company announced it
intended to pay $1.75 million in bonuses to 19 of its
executives.

The company brought out its few black employees
as the front guard of their fight, including its PR
man, Sam Wheeler, (former Harlem Globetrotters
basketball player), who called the protest "black
against black." The black drivers who received
commissions from the sales of the delivered bakery
products were encouraged by Wheeler to set up a
protest at the ACTION headquarters. The drivers
who were misled by the company apparently hadn't
realized an important element of discrimination
uncovered by ACTION: that the black drivers' routes
included small black convenience stores while the
white drivers got the big grocery chain stores.

When the company tactic to pit their black
employees against ACTION didn't work, the
corporation tapped into its buddies in higher places.
Then Missouri Attorney General Jack Danforth filed
an injunction and conspiracy suit against ACTION.
The antitrust suit claimed that ACTION and Colonial
Bread were in cahoots with one another to bring ITT
Continental Bakeries down. Colonial Bread was
Wonder Bread's competition and it became an
unintended beneficiary of the ACTION boycott. It
also became a surprised co-conspirator in the AG's
anti-trust law suit.

This tactic backfired as well. It catapulted the
conglomerate and all its dirty linen into the national
spotlight for several years. It put the resources of a
peer corporation into action (no pun intended) and
forced the state attorney general's office to settle the
suit that there was no wrong doing on Colonial's
part.

The conglomerate became a target of antitrust
groups but more volatile was being a target of the
anti-war movement that prompted a national
boycott of Wonder Bread with the slogan, "Don't Buy
Bombs when You Buy Bread!" ITT`s ugly ties to the
CIA's topple of the democratically elected Chilean
leader, Salvador Allende, were also uncovered
during this time.

The historical struggle of workers against companies
like Hostess is a testament that we must stay
vigilant in our efforts to uphold racial and gender
equality and pay equity, along with issues of worker
safety and product quality. These greedy
corporations don't get better with time. Let's make
sure we are fighting for immediate victories for
workers but also for worker security and rights that
will endure well into the future.
_______________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member
and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the
Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and the
Black Radical Congress National Organizer.
Additionally, she is an Alston-Bannerman Fellow.
She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It - A
Chronicle of Struggle.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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