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Toys, Tech and Twinkies: When unions go awry

The news is ripe with new union pushes for more rights, more benefits more money, fewer cuts, less hardship… all regardless of what the economy is doing. A lack of inexpensive toys, electronics and dessert food may be the cost of union member’s demands that they get more of everything while the rest of middle-to-low income America is earning less.

Unions have never been great students of economics. The fact that our current President and Senate Majority Leader pay them so much homage shows that perhaps our federal government also does not fully comprehend how a real free economy actually functions.

Next Friday, “Black Friday” as it is called, is the beginning of profitability for many retailers. Now, many union-influenced Wal-Mart employees are planning a massive walkout just as many American consumers are preparing to do the bulk of their holiday shopping.

Unions aren’t only going after toys and electronics. Twinkies, cupcakes, ho hos, ding dongs, suzy q’s, sno balls, zingers and danishes may all cease to exist once Hostess decides to close its doors. While Hostess has reached an agreement with it’s teamsters union, the baker’s union is holding the company hostage. Hostess has asked for a 4% overall pay cut to deal with the downturn in the economy and the unions have refused. As of 5pm today, the highly-specialized Twinkie bakers of hostess had not yet agreed to return to work – Hostess has said that it can no longer afford the union’s demands and will seek to close the company and sell all assets.

The Irving, Texas-based company employs about 18,300 people nationwide and filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. Hostess cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing.

In economic downturns, many Americans have had to take less pay, fewer benefits, jobs that offer less or no job at all. Who does the baker’s union think buys Twinkies? With Hostess in its second bankruptcy, it is more likely that union demands will drive it out of business and the “bakers” will have to find work elsewhere – if they can. As Hostess employee Marty Raymond put it, ”I’m 59 years old. I’d like to get five more years, and I’ve been working with all these workers all these years and they just don’t want to listen. They listen to the union.”

With all the talk of “shared sacrifice” from the President, the unions are looking like the most greedy of all. The economy is struggling and so are most Americans. To have a certain segment of the population decide that they deserve more while the rest of us do with less is greed – pure and simple. What’s worse is that less than 20% of the Hostess workforce is on strike – the rest will lose their jobs over union demands.

Wal-Mart employees are important because the store won’t operate without managers, stockers, cashiers and receivers. While they are free to voice their grievances  their jobs are not so highly-specialized that it will be difficult to replace them – especially in today’s job market. I am not sure that Twinkie bakers are much more specialized as the recipe is standardized, repeatable and could probably be shepherded through the automated cycle by anyone that prefers a paycheck over unemployment assistance.

The Hostess jobs are the type that could easily be moved to other countries. It requires no special education, no lengthy training, no licensing or certifications. The FDA wouldn’t care if the Ho Ho’s were made here or Mexico as long as the ingredients and methods stayed the same.

Unions are an out-moded idea. During the early 20th century they helped raise awareness and combat worker abuses. Now they just seek higher compensation than the market would otherwise dictate. Seriously, if there were a huge need for dessert cake bakers, wages would rise on their own so processed food cookeries could attract the best talent. Oddly, that’s not happening so the unions have to step in to artificially inflate wages and benefits.

If turning a blind-eye to the free market economy weren’t enough, the National Labor Relations Board – a highly-political government organization – is expected to force businesses to give personal information to unions:

The National Labor Relations Board is expected to start work on a rule that would force businesses to turn over workers’ phone numbers, emails and shift times to union organizers.

In the end, the average American family loses. Some will find Wal-Marts with long lines or closed doors on the heaviest shopping day of the year. Other’s will find their jobs ended by a few greedy union leaders bent on absolute rule over the economy.

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  1. Jan Brown says:

    Unions, like high button shoes, once served a purpose but have passed their expiration date. Is it possible that ‘this’ administration is (not) turning a blind eye, but is using their strong arm thugary, plus the Union heads inflated egos as a weapon to control the ‘masses’..us? The joblessness, hungery, homeless will become more easily controled & dependent (enslaved) on government…any government..A few short years ago, in my wildest dreams, a thought like this would never enter my head, but now I look around & can’t find a single dictator going hungry or huddled under a bridge at night. So while I feel for the employees, I must admire the courage of Hostess. Standing strong for our beliefs is our only hope even with its casualities.

  2. Pedros says:

    Atlas is shrugging. What will Obama and Bernanke do about it? If you don’t know, you’re screwed as you are unprepared for consequences. Good luck.