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Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 09:48 AM

Hostess closing Seattle bakery, 2 others after strike

The Associated Press

Hostess Brands is permanently closing three bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati after a nationwide strike by its bakers union.

The Texas-based maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs says the strike has prevented it from producing and delivering products. The three bakeries employ a total 627 workers.

Its Seattle bakery is on Dexter Avenue North at Republican Street, between Aurora Avenue North and the fast-growing South Lake Union neighborhood.

In May, Hostess notified its 250 employees in Washington that they could be laid off in 60 days. At the time, the company said it had 111 employees in Seattle, 17 in Kent, and 56 in Pierce County subject to layoffs.

Other sites covered by the warning were in Everett, Bellingham, Bremerton, Tumwater, Longview. Moses Lake, Yakima and Spokane.

Hostess warned earlier this month that the strike, by about 30 percent of its workforce, could lead to bakery closures. The company has about 18,300 employees and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, its second time in a decade.

A company spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the exact number of workers affected by the Seattle closure.

“Very few” Hostess workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union are crossing the picket line in a strike begun Nov. 9, said Ray Scannell, the union’s research and education director.

The union, which says it represents 5,000 Hostess workers, went on strike to protest wage and benefit cuts. Officials say the company stopped contributing to workers’ pension last year.

The union rejected the company’s contract offer in September by a 92 percent vote.

Hostess Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn said in a statement that “we will close the entire company if widespread strikes cripple our business.”

The strike affects 23 of Hostess’s 36 plants, the company said Monday. Half the affected plants are operating, it said.

The company can’t continue operating with one-third of the plants not functioning, Rayburn said in an interview. Hostess is “days away” from having to shut down entirely, he said.

Drivers represented by the Teamsters union ratified a new contract with 8 percent in wage concessions and 17 percent in benefit reductions.

The Teamsters are honoring the bakery workers’ picket lines at some locations, Scannell said, but Hostess said enough union members are crossing the picket lines to allow “full operations” at about half the struck plants.

Bloomberg News and Seattle Times business staff contributed

to this report.


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