It’s Never Time to Fight Back

I can’t tell you how many people have voiced the opinion in the past couple of weeks that the ongoing US union uprising is just so terribly badly timed:

In any event, the $989 million in pension liabilities Hostess ended up owing various union funds, according to its bankruptcy filing, didn’t accumulate in secret, like termite damage. It accrued because Hostess and its sister bakeries judged their retirement obligations to be relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Now that the bill has come due, Hostess blames the workers for demanding what they were promised.

So rude. How dare they ask for what they were told they could expect? Why don’t they just sit down like good little boys and girls and let the adults cast lots for the spoils of their labor? In fact, why don’t they go away entirely? Their presence is an uncomfortable reminder that we once told them they could live like human beings. They’re being so uncivil. They’re being so loud. They’re being so insistent. Don’t they know everything is just a big ironic joke now? Why do they have to get so upset? It’s not like this matters.

You know, 90 percent of all of our political and cultural problems, I am starting to think, come from getting mad at the person pointing out that THE WORLD IS ON FIRE instead of grabbing a bucket and joining the fire brigade.

First you have to prove that the world is on fire, and then that you have a legitimate right to speak up in the meeting to alert people to the fire, and then you have to prove you didn’t start the fire in the first place, and meanwhile livestock is fleeing the danger zone and the temperature’s approaching molten-lead levels, but we’re still debating whether you’re enough of an expert on incindiaries to make us put down our morning coffee.


7 thoughts on “It’s Never Time to Fight Back

  1. This is to me yet another example of how it’s not really left-versus-right but ignorance and superstition versus at least enough education to know that unions aren’t the problem. But anti-unionism is as much an article of faith for the wingers as all the other cliches they cling to…

  2. And, IIRC, the Hostess pension plan required contributions from employees, as well as the company. So, quite simply, the employees put money in, and the company took money out, to pay management fees, pay interest on high debt loads, pay outrageous executive compensation unrelated to performance, etc.–all the things that hedge funds do to drain companies.
    Now, they’ll argue in bankruptcy court that the pension system was unsupportable, that the debt should be discharged and the pension plan turned over to the Feds.
    Had Woody Guthrie lived long enough, he would have said that some men rob you with a gun, some with a fountain pen, and some with a spreadsheet.

  3. Information is the union’s best friend. Those “lavish” pension benefits that took away our Twinkies? No, that was a negotiated item in the employment contract between Hostess and its workers. You think Hostess didn’t avail itself of the best legal minds in the corporate world to represent it in contract negotiations?
    But, having enacted their ruinous business plan and run themselves out of business, the geniuses who ran Hostess are flailing about, trying to paint those “greedy” workers as the culprit. It’s just like ordering something from Amazon, receiving it in the mail two days later, and then complaining when the charge shows up on your credit card bill. But since most people don’t work with an employment contract and attendant security provisions, the fatcats who ran Hostess into the ground get away with blaming their employees for expecting Hostess to abide by its contract.
    Don’t let folks get away with blaming the workers.

  4. Neglect or intentional? The insurance companies make a fortune by predicting life expectancy, annuity values, etc.
    Could anyone argue that Hostess didn’t know about actuarial tables?
    Once again this year, so much for they myth of the magical CEO type.

  5. In the link, it gives their magical turn-around plan. Sounds to me like buzzword bingo from an MBA student.
    The steps included closing outmoded plants and improving the efficiency of those that remain; upgrading the company’s “aging vehicle fleet” and merging its distribution warehouses for efficiency; installing software at the warehouses to allow it to track inventory; and closing unprofitable retail stores. It also proposed to restore its advertising budget and establish an R&D program to develop new products to “maintain existing customers and attract new ones.”

  6. I’m still gobsmacked by the idea that anybody sane could be hornswoggled into thinking Hostess’ difficulties have anything to do with the union, or pensions at all.
    You’re a company that owns, manufactures, and markets not just some of the most recogniseable and well-distributed products in North America, but multiple product lines of same, and you can’t make money? Further, you can’t make money and you’ve been in bankruptcy twice?And your top executives are still taking home huge bonuses?
    That’s a spectacular failure of management, and really can’t be anything else. Well, “failure” in a certain sense, which is to say in the traditional business sense of keeping a viable company a going concern; in modern terms, it’s a spectacular success, given that “success” means looting a company and sifting the ashes, and walking away with as much money as you can manage.
    If business schools actually were places of sanity (ha ha, I amuse myself), they’d be studying Hostess as a bad example for years. Chances are good, however, that they’re just taking notes.

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