Longtime Merita Employees Out of Work as Hostess Stops Operations
Published November 17th, 2012
LAKE CITY - Hostess, one of America's most famous brands of snack foods, announced plans on Friday to liquidate its assets in bankruptcy court. But while the move may signal the end of the Twinkie, it also signals the end of employment for many area workers.
While the company is best known for their Twinkie and Ding Dong snacks, Hostess Brands, Inc. actually owns several other well-known brands, including Merita breads. With four Merita outlet stores in north central Florida, many area workers found out they were no longer employed as of Friday.
"It was difficult giving the keys up to the warehouse that you've been carrying around in your pocket for 29 years," said Greg Bailey, a longtime employee of Merita. "It's going to be difficult driving out of this parking lot this evening, and going home to your family, knowing you don't have a job to come back to tomorrow," Bailey said.
Hostess' liquidation comes in the midst of a fierce battle with one of it's employee unions. The company has publicly blamed its bankruptcy on the ever-increasing demands of one of it's largest worker unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). But local members of that union dismiss those claims.
"We asked for nothing additional in the last contract," said Gene Berryhill, a 25 year employee of Merita bread, and a member of BCTGM. "We asked for everything to remain the same as was in our last contract. But the company came out and wanted us to give up another 8 percent of our pay, to keep them in business," said Berryhill. In fact, Berryhill says corporate executives have been taking pay raises while they ask their employees to work for less, something first reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.
Ever since the liquidation announcement was made early Friday morning, local Merita employees say business has been booming. But while the production of Hostess products have ceased, many outlet stores, including the one in Lake City, say they plan on remaining open through the weekend, as they try to get rid of all of their remaining supplies.
While this most recent development may signal the end of the Twinkie as we know it, many industry experts say not so fast. As Hostess rushes to sell its assets, some say don't be surprised if another company buys some of Hostess' most popular brands, such as the Twinkie and Ding Dongs, and produces them under another brand name.
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