Hostess and Walmart’s Labor Disputes

Walmart has seen dozens of its stores experiencing protests in the wake of union action. The retail giant has to battle with this commotion even as Hostess Brands, manufacturer of various baked goods including Ding Dongs and Twinkies, is undergoing bankruptcy liquidation. There were planned actions scheduled for Black Friday, but they were mostly non-events with the retailer saying that 26 protests were seen at their stores on the day and Walmart associates who participated were very few in number.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average annual wage of workers in grocery stores at $20,200, while Walmart’s is $20,744. Nine out of 10 Walmart workers get insurance, which is through Walmart or from elsewhere where one’s spouse is covered. The low-cost mini-med plans that it offers will be outlawed in the health reforms, as such the plan will have to be stopped or changed.

Meanwhile, union attempts at Hostess Brands have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Hostess faced the force of union action and after a national strike on its plants  is now bankrupt. The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union called for strike action following its rejection of the retailer’s proposal. Hostess Brands is now going through its 2nd bankruptcy in a decade. It made sales of $2.45 billion last year compared to 2006, $3.1 billion and their net losses running from 2006-2012 ranged from $128 million and $341 million respectively.

The Teamsters, the company’s largest union, had agreed to accept cuts in associates’ benefits and pay, but the smaller union, the Bakers union, refused and called for strike action. The retailer was dealing with plenty as 372 collective-bargaining contracts had been put on the table, 40 pension plans and 80 health and benefit plans.