When Hostess Brands shut down and closed its bakeries in November 2012, approximately 18,000 workers in 48 states lost their jobs, including about 250 here in Washington state. Although right-wing pundits were quick to try to blame the unions for the iconic company’s demise, it didn’t take long for the true story come out: that the unionized workers at Hostess bakeries had continually made many sacrifices to keep the company afloat, but what ultimately doomed the Twinkie maker was plummeting sales and mismanagement.
As it turns out, the company was also harmed by foreign competition.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced last week that former Hostess workers are eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) after a lengthy investigation found that increased imports of baked products “contributed importantly” to the company’s sales declines and eventual closure.
At the request of Christian Dube of Operating Engineers Local 286, Bill Messenger, Workforce Investment Act Labor Liaison for the Washington State Labor Council, helped petition for TAA certification for laid-off Hostess workers in Washington.
“Any certification is bittersweet, as it often signifies the outsourcing of family-wage jobs,” Messenger said. “It’s significant that Hostess workers are offered benefits well above regular dislocated workers. It’s unfortunate that it took so long to certify the facilities, but we were glad to hear they will have access to Trade Adjustment Assistance.”
TAA can provide fully funded training, a health coverage subsidy, extended income support, and other benefits to dislocated workers whose companies move production or outsource to another country, or are forced to lay off workers or close plants due to increased imports and foreign competition.
The unions in Washington State whose members lost their jobs in the Hostess closure are reaching out to those laid-off workers to inform them of meetings where they can learn about TAA benefits and how to individually apply. Former Hostess workers can email Bill Messenger or Caitlyn Jekel, or call them at 360-705-9469.
Here is a WSLC-produced video explaining TAA benefits:
Also at The Stand — TAA helps Washington get back to work (November 2011)