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Hostess bankruptcy: The latest example of contempt for hard work

November 26, 2012 - Mike Maneval
The manufacturer of Twinkies and Ding Dongs is folding, with competing companies mulling offers to buy the branding and names of the defunct employer's products after a preliminary approval on Nov. 21 for the business to liquidate. And one segment of America's political establishment isn't wasting the opportunity to yet again demonize working Americans, without regard for the consequences of their anti-labor philosophy.

A headline at the National Review's leading blog, the Corner, instructed readers to "blame unions for the Hostess bankruptcy." The website of conservative columnist Michelle Malkin bemoaned the jobs lost before saying "union bosses ... will now move on to 'help' the next batch of union workers elsewhere." The conservative website calls the union's behavior "insane" while approvingly citing an analysis by the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway, who says the pay rates for the unionized workers were "overly generous" and calls the bankruptcy "a classic example of workers not being served well by their union leaders." The anonymous commenters at Hot Air go even further, calling the workforce that produced the snack cakes central to the company existing in the first place "parasites."

The vitriolic reactions to the failures of Hostess are important, for at least two reasons: They are contradicted by the facts and conjured by fantasy, and they are illustrative of modern conservatism's deep contempt for working Americans.

As Michael Hiltzik reported in the Los Angeles Times, the unionized employees already had accepted wage cuts, benefit cuts, and layoffs shifting greater workloads on to a smaller workforce, totaling $110 million a year in value for five years. Additionally, as this most recent collapse approached, the company withheld $8 million a month in promised pension funding from workers. All, Hiltzik reports, while pay rates in the administrative or "managerial" sectors of the company were doubled or more.

But the baseless attacks on working Americans being well compensated hardly is isolated to one chain of snack cake bakeries. It's the same attitude that led many to seize the troubles two years ago at General Motors and Chrysler as a chance to scapegoat unionized assembly-line workers. It's the same attitude driving calls to cut public-sector pay and benefits for firefighters, public school teachers, prison guards and others, locally and across the state and nation. It's the same mentality that saw the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a golden opportunity to weaken protections for cargo ship workers and that consistently opposes minimum wage increases.

And it's the same mentality responsible for at least three decades of stagnant earnings for too many Americans as prices for essential goods and services climb, and for today's unemployment, as those working Americans have less disposable income to purchase the goods and services that once kept the now jobless employed.


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