Managing chaos… the role of Human Resources

This is just my opinion, so you should probably take it with a grain of salt.

There’s a reason why some Human Resources (HR) departments are so large and premium salaries are paid to staff them… it’s cheaper than fighting lawsuits. HR is a component of a company’s legal strategy. HR departments are basically used in a manner to help offset the human cost of conducting business by managing fallout when conflicts occur and problems arise. HR departments generally want to be seen as employee advocates.

Human Resources acts similarly to an internal business political engine, used to placate employees. They don’t so much ‘solve’ conflicts or grievances as they water down the underlying causes of conflicts. Their ultimate responsibility is to protect the company, to insulate the company as much as possible from the employees. HR’s second tier of responsibility is to protect management. Lastly, and if it’s practical, comes the common employee. That’s the hierarchy. Now, there are times when this hierarchy isn’t strictly followed… like in cases of sexual harassment between the aforementioned tiers of responsibility. The common employee has an advantage over management. A lot of times, if the company can reasonably ascertain that sexual harassment has been committed, the offending management is fired and the common employee becomes ‘untouchable’ for a period of time… in hopes that the victim party does not seek monetary compensation, and the ugly incident hopefully blows over.

In larger, good paying companies, the attrition rates of employees are low. People tend to stay in their job category/position much longer and become sedentary in their jobs. This creates clusters of employees who develop a long work history with fellow employees. Petty grievances can percolate over years in these clusters. What has inadvertently been created, is a larger organism (clique) that is harder for Human Resources and management to control. These cliques know ‘where the dead bodies are buried’, so to speak. They then become problematic for HR to deal with on an individual level and group dynamics have to be taken into account.

I realize this post sounds like I’m very negative on the role of Human Resources, and that is somewhat a true assertion, but I do think the role of Human Resource departments… when applied appropriately, are an asset to both the company and to the employees. A few ideas that I think would minimize some of the most common conflicts that arise from employees and management are:

  1. Rotate employees out of their departments and switch their work assignments regularly. This should help prevent work cliques from forming. This has the added benefit of cross-training employees, allowing them to develop new skills and becoming more valuable to the company.
  2. Send out periodic employee assessment questionnaires, asking them to grade performance of their supervisors and managers. Typically, ‘performance reviews’ run down the chain-of-command… rarely do they go up the chain. Employees feel they have little input in the workplace. Assessment questionnaires could help change that well earned perception.

 

 

Matching capabilities to oversight

I’ve been in the machining business for many years. During that time, I’ve worn many ‘hats’ in the industry, from being a machinist operator to owning a CNC machine shop. It has been my experience, that many times, shop supervisors have very limited knowledge of machine shop practices and procedures.

This can be detrimental to the productivity of a shop, if that supervisor insists on implementing ideas and/or procedures, that run contrary to common machine shop practices. This is because many common shop practices have been developed over time, and are fundamental to running a shop in a very precise way.

Shop practices can range from how machining processes are accomplished, to how work flows through the area. These practices can also be used to delegate responsibilities to key machinists… responsibilities that may encompass who and when tools are ordered, whose job it is to maintain the machine tools, and the best way to machine a job. For this reason, the most qualified machinist, is usually the shop lead. The shop lead’s primary purpose is to interface with the supervisor.

Because the lead and the supervisor are closely tied to one another, it is imperative that they share a common view and understanding on how the shop set up, staffed, and run. Supervisors don’t typically have much machining knowledge, but the shop lead does. In theory, one compliments the other, to make a functioning whole.

In a perfect world, both the supervisor’s and shop lead’s overall abilities overlap. Where one’s skills may be lacking, the other compensates. The reality is that many times, because the supervisor hasn’t the depth of knowledge the lead possesses, instances arise in which they end up working against each other. This breakdown impacts the working relationships of the personnel on the floor and the productivity of the shop.

So, how do we match supervisors to shop leads? I think the best supervisors are those who have been machinists on the floor, but that’s not the world we live in. As I’ve said before, they should compliment each other. Understanding that, in most cases, the supervisor has very limited machine shop experiences, we should seek out a lead that fulfills the deficits of the supervisor.

Three keys to matching a supervisor to a lead are Scope, Depth, and Knowledge. These are defined below.

Scope: the area of responsibility of the individual

Depth: the amount of influence one has over their work environment

Knowledge: level of mastery in the area of your responsibility

When we assign values to these three areas, for both the supervisor and the lead, we should see an overlap that fills the voids of one with that of the other.

Here’s and example of a typical Supervisor’s radial chart…

A supervisor has a lot of Scope (7.0) but can be restricted by higher up management, thus limiting their Scope below the maximum value of ten. Their Depth (6.0) does have a meaningful impact on how the shop is run. As we can see, their limited Knowledge of the machine shop translates to a two. This level of Knowledge makes it that much more important to select a qualified Lead. The Lead needs to be able to backfill the supervisor’s gap in Knowledge.

Below is an example of that Lead’s radial chart…

Admittedly, the chart seems overly optimistic in contrast to the Supervisor’s. But, keep in mind… the Lead is usually the most seasoned machinist with a vast amount of experience in the industry. While a Supervisor may have a more broad work experience, that may include non-manufacturing jobs, a Lead is more prone to only have very specific work experiences dealing with manufacturing exclusively.

Those two previous charts are best case scenarios. What I’ve found in my personal journey in the trade, looks more like this for a Lead…

The Scope for this hypothetical Lead is a four. The Depth is a miserable two. And the Knowledge is also a two. WHY??? Well, as is often the case, “it’s not what you know, but who you know’. I’ve found many Supervisors want to micro-manage their work environments. In doing so, they place mediocre people into Lead positions. These Leads are easily cowed and lack the Knowledge or Scope to ‘push back’ against a Supervisor who is negating common machine shop practices. The end results are a poorly run shop floor and a general lack of respect for the Supervisor and incompetent Leads. Job apathy becomes the norm amongst the other, more qualified machinists.

 

 

Yep, I called it!

 

 

Rather than Deal With Health-Care Reform, Doctors Mull Early Retirement

by

Published March 27, 2013

FOXBusiness

American doctors are increasingly concerned about changes already implemented or coming to the health-care system, and some are opting to retire sooner than planned.

Deloitte’s 2013 survey of U.S. physicians found 57% doctors view changes in the industry under the Affordable Care Act as a threat, and six in 10 physicians report it’s likely that many will retire earlier than planned in the next two to three years. This trend could cause more widespread issues in the health-care system that is already coping with doctor and nurse shortages in some areas of the country.

The survey found these numbers to be fairly uniform among all doctors regardless of age, gender or medical specialty.

Fifty-seven percent also say the practice of medicine is in jeopardy, because the “best and brightest” may not consider a career in medicine under new requirements of the reform.

New Jersey-based family physician Marc Mayer, blames the new electronic medical records requirement under the reform as pushing doctors into retirement early. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates practices use electronic medical records to reduce paper work, increase communications and cut costs and errors starting Oct. 1 2012.

“Those one and two-person practices with doctors in their late 50s and early 60s may think it’s too daunting of a change and retire early,” he says. “If they don’t do all of those [required] things, they will be looking at a drop in income.”

Jane Orient, executive director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, says the group has been surveying its members on early retirement and other topics for the past decade and has seen similar responses since the implementation of health-care reform. However, she says the economy will play a bigger role on how many doctors exit their practice.

“Some are looking at concierge models, some doctors will go work for hospitals because they just can’t cope with the crushing load of new regulations,” Orient says.

Physicians also report a decrease in take-home pay from 2011 to 2012 in the Deloitte survey, attributing the haircut  to ObamaCare. More than half of respondents saw a 10% or less decrease in their paycheck in the past year. Half forecast that physician incomes will fall dramatically in the next one to three years. Sixty-eight percent of solo physicians report being more likely to have their incomes will fall than those in practices with two to nine physicians (51%) or those with more than 10 physicians (44%).

ObamaCare proposes to save money by “squeezing doctors’ ability to make money,” says Orient.  Right now, about 50% of what doctors make goes to overhead costs, she adds, so a 10% cut in fees at doctors’ offices equates to a 20% cut in profits.

“A lot of our doctors are [concerned about profit loss] and say these threats and cuts are draconian. The requirements are impossible and if you combine that with the fact that a frightening proportion are aged 55 and older, many could retire if they wanted to,” she says.

Mayer’s practice, the Avenel-Iselin Medical Group is a patient-centered medical home, and has been able to participate in both Medicare and private commercial insurance programs. In 2013 and 2014, the law requires states to pay PCPs 100% of Medicare payment rates for services.

“They are paying us for care management fees, and we are now being paid for primary care physician services that we have always done but were never paid for.”

 

‘Unintended Consequences’ of ObamaCare

ObamaCare weighs in: CVS tells employees to reveal personal health info — or pay up

 

Update from Magpul’s FaceBook page

 

Apparently Gov Hickenlooper has announced that he will sign HB 1224 on Wednesday. We were asked for our reaction, and here is what we said:

We have said all along that based on the legal problems and uncertainties in the bill, as well as general principle, we will have no choice but to leave if the Governor signs this into law. We will start our transition out of the state almost immediately, and we will prioritize moving magazine manufacturing operations first. We expect the first PMAGs to be made outside CO within 30 days of the signing, with the rest to follow in phases. We will likely become a multi-state operation as a result of this move, and not all locations have been selected. We have made some initial contacts and evaluated a list of new potential locations for additional manufacturing and the new company headquarters, and we will begin talks with various state representatives in earnest if the Governor indeed signs this legislation. Although we are agile for a company of our size, it is still a significant footprint, and we will perform this move in a manner that is best for the company and our employees.

It is disappointing to us that money and a social agenda from outside the state have apparently penetrated the American West to control our legislature and Governor, but we feel confident that Colorado residents can still take the state back through recalls, ballot initiatives, and the 2014 election to undo these wrongs against responsible Citizens.

Overstepping their elected power?

Bloomberg… what a freakin’ idiot this guy is! Its none of his damned business what people eat or drink. Since when do elected officials know how best to run someone’s life? This ass of a politician needs to be thrown from office.

 

State judge halts Bloomberg ban on large sugary drinks in New York City

Published March 11, 2013

FoxNews.com

A New York judge is forcing the Bloomberg administration to take a big gulp — striking down its groundbreaking and controversial limit on the size of sugary drinks in New York City shortly before it was set to take effect.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling wrote in his opinion that the rules are “arbitrary and capricious,” applying to only certain beverages and only certain stores.

“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule,” he wrote, complaining of “uneven enforcement even within a particular City block, much less the City as a whole.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city plans to appeal, calling the ruling “clearly an error.”

“If we are serious about fighting obesity then we have to be honest about it and courageous about tackling it,” Bloomberg said. “We believe it is reasonable and responsible to draw a line.”

But Tingling said the city’s Board of Health went beyond its authority, and effectively would be “limited by its own imagination” if left unchecked.

“The portion cap rule, if upheld, would create an administrative Leviathan and violate the separation of powers doctrine,” by straying into territory that should belong to the elected City Council, not the board appointed by Bloomberg, Tingling wrote.

That, he wrote, “has the potential to be more troubling than sweetened beverages.

In the wake of the ruling, the American Beverage Association said the decision provided a “sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban.”

The city Board of Health approved the measure in September. Championed by Bloomberg, it follows on other efforts his administration has made to improve New Yorkers’ eating habits, from compelling chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus to barring artificial trans fats in restaurant food to prodding food manufacturers to use less salt. 

The city has said that while restaurant inspectors would start enforcing the soda size rule in March, they wouldn’t seek fines — $200 for a violation — until June.

Soda makers, restaurateurs, movie theater owners and other business groups sued, asking a judge to declare the measure invalid. In February, they asked Tingling to bar the city from enforcing the regulation while the suit played out.

City officials have called the size limit a pioneering move for public health. They point to the city’s rising obesity rate — about 24 percent of adults, up from 18 percent in 2002 — and to studies tying sugary drinks to weight gain. Care for obesity-related illnesses costs government health programs about $2.8 billion a year in New York City alone, according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

The supersize-drink crackdown will “have significant public health effects, and the sooner that happens, the better,” city lawyer Mark W. Muschenheim said in court in February.

Critics said the measure is too limited to make a meaningful impact on New Yorkers’ waistlines. But they said it would take a bite out of business for the eateries that have to comply, while other establishments still will get sell sugary drinks in 2-liter bottles and supersize cups.

Beverage makers had expected to spend about $600,000 changing bottles and labels, movie theater owners feared losing soda sales that account for 20 percent of their profits, and delis and restaurants would have had to change inventory, reprint menus and make other adjustments, according to court papers.

“These are costs which these businesses are not going to be compensated for,” and the money will be wasted if the court ultimately nixes the law, James E. Brandt, a lawyer for the American Beverage Association and other opponents, told the judge in February.

Critics also said the restriction should have gone before the elected City Council instead of the Bloomberg-appointed health board. The city says the panel of doctors and other health professionals had both the authority and expertise to make the decision. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/11/ny-judge-halts-bloomberg-ban-on-large-sugary-drinks/?test=latestnews#ixzz2NIqX4WL9

Two edged sword cuts both ways.

Company will move if Colorado approves gun control

ERIE, Colo. –  Unnoticed amid dozens of tract homes in the Denver suburbs, a nondescript industrial building is suddenly in the middle of the gun control debate in Colorado.

The company, started in an ex-Marine’s basement in 1999, is in a standoff with Colorado Democrats who want to restrict the size of ammunition magazines after mass shootings in a suburban Denver movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. Magpul has issued lawmakers an ultimatum potentially worth millions: Pass the bill, and the business will move.

It’s a bold threat from a company that, by its founder’s admission, has distanced itself from politics.

“The people who wrote the bill didn’t even know we existed in the state,” said Richard Fitzpatrick, the founder and president of the company, one of the country’s largest producers of magazines and other firearm accessories for gun enthusiasts, law enforcement and the military.

The warning from Erie-based Magpul underscores the political pressures Democrats are weighing as they advance the strictest gun-control measures lawmakers have ever considered in a state that still prides its frontier spirit. Other gun-control proposals include universal background checks, a ban on concealed firearms on campuses, and holding assault-weapon sellers and owners liable for shootings.

Opponents need only three Democrats in the Senate to vote no against the magazine proposal to defeat it, and two have already said they won’t support the bill. But most Democrats are not budging.

“When you have the means available to you at every single corner to commit a horrendous act, we will continue to see what we’ve seen, which is the status quo, where unfortunately gun violence and violence in general is prevalent in our communities,” said Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, who will be considering the magazine bill on Monday in the Judiciary Committee. The bill has already passed the House, and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has promised to sign it.

The bill would make it a crime to have magazines that can carry more than 15 rounds, with a stricter limit of eight for shotguns. People who own larger magazines now would be allowed to keep them.

As the debate unfolds, states have made overtures to Magpul, including offering to pay their moving costs. The company won’t name the states, but Wyoming and Texas have expressed interest in netting the $85 million the company projects it will spend in Colorado next year in payments to suppliers, subcontractors and service providers. Magpul said the move would also impact its 200 employees, plus an additional 400 who work for suppliers and subcontractors.

“It’s not so much, `Oh, these people are making something that’s going to cost Colorado lives.’ We truly believe this bill will do nothing. It’s a feel-good measure,” Fitzpatrick said. “But these (workers) will be directly affected.”

Fitzpatrick said the bill’s requirement that all magazines have serial numbers adds enough production costs to make it worth leaving. He also said smaller magazines can be easily connected to each other — magazines can be hooked up to make a 60-round magazine, for example — and the company fears it would legally liable if people were to do that.

Democrats have tried to ease Magpul’s fears, amending the bill to make clear that the company can still manufacture magazines of any size, as long as they’re sold only out-of-state, to the military or law enforcement.

Republicans who oppose the restrictions argue Democrats are sending mixed messages about gun control to keep a company in Colorado.

“It’s being hypocritical. These things are either bad or they’re not,” said Republican Rep. Brian DelGrosso.

Magpul argues that limiting magazine sizes will not reduce gun violence, and that criminals will find ways around laws, including going to other states to buy larger magazines. Magpul officials note that some of their products sometimes end up in California, which limits magazine sizes to 10 rounds.

“The solutions that people want to bring up are hardware solutions,” said Magpul Director Duane Liptak. “And they want to talk about this physical piece of equipment that’s not inherently evil. It’s not inherently good. It’s a tool like anything else. It can be used for good, and it can be used improperly by people who have evil in their hearts.”

Supporters of the proposals say Magpul is bluffing and that a move would prove too costly.

“I don’t think Magpul is about to pull out,” said Bill Hoover, 83, whose grandson AJ Boik was among the 12 killed in the theater shooting. “It’s going to cost them a bundle of money.”

Fitzpatrick said his company is serious.

“It’s not really a threat. It’s a promise,” he said.

Sens. Lois Tochtrop and Cheri Jahn are the two Democrats voting against the bill. Both say they don’t believe it addresses the main problem — mental health — and Tochtrop also cited Magpul’s potential departure.

“I think we really need to address that problem. Look at the cause, not the tool,” Tochtrop said.

Michigan locals raise funds for ‘hot dog guy’ after union protesters destroy his supplies

Clint Tarver2_hotdogMI.jpg

 

Clinton Tarver has been serving hot dogs to hungry locals in downtown Lansing, Mich., for the last five years, but a brush this week with a pro-union protest literally upended his small business in a matter of minutes.

During a protest against right-to-work legislation in Michigan’s capital, Tarver’s catering supplies were destroyed when demonstrators tore down the tent where he was serving and trampled his gear.

The tent had been set up by the conservative Americans for Prosperity, which supports the legislation Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Tuesday that allows unionized workers to opt out of paying union dues.

Tarver, who has been a small business owner for the last 16 years, was there to give hot dogs to supporters in the tent on the Capitol lawn. He said he was just checking tickets, not sizing up customers.

“Everyone that had a ticket I had given a hot dog to,” the 63-year-old owner of Clint’s Hot Dog Cart and Casual Catering told FoxNews.com. “So when two guys, one with a mask, came to get their hot dogs, I didn’t think anything of it because they had tickets and I was just there for a job.”

He described the action that ensued as “violent.” Only minutes after he’d handed the two men their hot dogs, the pair tore down the tent, turned over his serving tables, smashed his hot dogs, tossed a cooler filled with sodas and spilled his chili.

“I kept explaining that I was just here to do a job, that I wasn’t on anybody’s side, but when people started calling me racial slurs, my friend who works at the Capitol told me I had to get out of there, so I crawled out,” said Tarver, who is black.

Until Tuesday, he thought he was relatively unknown. But word spread about the incident, and local residents on both sides of the issue began rallying to help Tarver out.

Lorilea Zabadal, a staff member for Republican state Rep. Al Pscholka, set up an online fundraiser at gofundme.com. The goal was to reach $5,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, over $14,000 in donations had been raised.

“I supported Clint. He’s a great guy and a great small business,”Lt Governor Brian Calley. He also thanked citizens who had supported Tarver financially.

Tarver said that state Sen. Joe Humes and his wife reached out to Tarver on Tuesday night promising to reimburse him for his equipment.

And a spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity said they plan to reimburse Tarver as well.

Michigan State Police have contacted Tarver about the incident, but a request for comment by Lansing police was not immediately returned to FoxNews.com.

Tarver said he’s overwhelmed by the support and that he didn’t know he had touched so many people.

“I never knew people cared so much about the hot dog guy — I feel overwhelmed,” Tarver said. “I’m just here to serve.”

Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S… Why they tend to fail.

What is Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S? More importantly, why do these programs tend to fail?

Basically, all of these terms refer to a philosophy of continuous improvement and working practices, set in place to remove clutter, improve quality, and to streamline work processes. It is the purpose of these ‘quality programs’ to reduce over production, cut waste, and deliver products ‘just-in-time’ to customers.

In theory, these programs are beneficial for the companies implementing them. To a lesser degree, it can also be a positive influence to those who use the same techniques in their own personal lives.

What I’m interested in is why these quality programs tend to fail. I’ve been involved in Six Sigma and 5S programs when employed at various companies in the past. These programs, in my opinion, started with good intentions but were either misunderstood, mismanaged, or ‘gamed’.

Misunderstood: Often, people’s concept of Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S, is limited to the replication of other companies’ implementation of these programs. It is said that copying is the sincerest form of flattery. While that may be true, copying a wrong result will only end in another wrong result. Looking to other companies as an example, is a great start. But you should start by asking ‘Why?’ ‘Why’ does a company using Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S… do so in the way that they do? Does it make sense to use the exact way one company uses it in your own company? Or, do you need to tweak the way you use the program to better fit your own company/work environment? You need to have a vision of what it is you want to achieve and not go about blindly making unnecessary changes. This will only confuse employees who are charged with maintaining the program and create a pessimistic response from them too.

Mismanaged: This is probably the biggest part of failure relating to Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S. Like ‘misunderstood’ mentioned above, it goes one step further by oversimplifying, overdoing, and becoming entangled in the nuances of the quality program instead of addressing the aim of the quality program. An example of this is labeling and marking. You can tell when this is concurring by looking at the workspace in question. Is the area marked off in excess? Staplers lined off on desks… file cabinets lined off AND labeled ‘File Cabinet’… etc. Are things labeled for the sake of labeling? Don’t get me wrong, but when you label a label maker, you’ve exceeded your usefulness and entered the realm of the absurd.

Gamed: Gamed in terms of manipulation of the data to achieve better ‘results’. Results that falsely show the quality program’s results that are not accurate. Managers often try to manipulate charts and data to reflect a positive momentum towards a perceived end goal result. The purpose of  Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S is not to achieve perfection but to address inefficiency and wasted movement in the workplace. Implementation of Kaizen, Six Sigma and 5S are costly.  When the programs get ‘gamed’ in this way, then the integrity and effectiveness of the programs must be called into question.

Comments are always welcomed!

Twinkies bakers say they’d rather lose jobs than take pay cuts

http://news.yahoo.com/twinkies-bakers-theyd-rather-lose-jobs-pay-cuts-075558559–finance.html

By Carey Gillam and Martinne Geller | Reuters – 11 hrs ago

KANSAS CITY, Mo./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Enough is enough, say bakery workers at Hostess Brands Inc.

After several years of costly concessions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) authorized a walk-out earlier this month after Hostess received bankruptcy court approval to implement a wage cut that was not included in its contract.

With operations stalled, the company that makes Twinkies and other famous U.S. brands said last week that liquidating its business was the best way to preserve its dwindling cash. It won court approval on Wednesday to start winding down in a process expected to claim 15,000 jobs immediately and over 3,000 more after about four months.

Interviews with more than a dozen workers showed there was little sign of regret from employees who voted for the strike. They said they would rather lose their jobs than put up with lower wages and poorer benefits.

“They’re just taking from us,” said Kenneth Johnson, 46, of Missouri. He said he earned roughly $35,000 with overtime last year, down from about $45,000 five years ago.

“I really can’t afford to not be working, but this is not worth it. I’d rather go work somewhere else or draw unemployment,” said Johnson, a worker at Hostess for 23 years.

With 18,500 workers, Hostess has 12 different unions including the BCTGM, which has about 5,600 members on the bread and snack item production lines, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents about 7,500 route sales representatives, drivers and other employees.

Unlike some non-unionized rivals, the maker of Wonder Bread and Drake’s cakes had to navigate more than 300 labor contracts, with terms that often strained efficiency and competitiveness, Hostess officials have said. In some extreme cases, contract provisions required different products to be delivered on different trucks even when headed to the same place.

Aside from those so-called onerous labor contracts, Hostess has grappled for some time with rising ingredient costs and a growing health consciousness that has made its sugary cakes less popular. It filed for bankruptcy in January, only three years after emerging from a prior bankruptcy.

Lance Ignon, speaking on behalf of Hostess, said the company recognized how difficult the past few years had been for workers and wished it did not have to ask them for more givebacks.

“But the reality was that the company could not survive without those concessions,” Ignon said.

FRUSTRATIONS, COMPLAINTS

Workers had a laundry list of frustrations, from rising healthcare costs to decreased wages and delayed pension benefits. They even cited a $10-per-week per worker charge they said Hostess claimed was needed to boost company capital.

“They have taken and taken and taken from us,” said Debi White, who has worked at Hostess for 26 years, most recently as a bun handler at its bread and roll plant in Lenexa, Kansas.

“They have been walking around stomping their foot saying either you give in … or else we’re going to close you now. Well, go ahead, we’re tired of their threats,” she said. “That’s how we feel.”

Hostess workers are now scrambling to figure out when their health insurance runs out — or if it already has — and where and how to apply for job retraining and unemployment benefits.

Following a summer and autumn spent in labor negotiations trying to find a common path to reorganization, Hostess’ management gained concessions from some unions, including the Teamsters.

The fear of thousands of job losses, for its own members and other unions, led the Teamsters to plead with the BCTGM to hold a secret ballot to determine if bakery workers really wanted to continue with the strike, even with the threat of closure.

Teamsters officials complained that bakery union leaders did “not substantively look for a solution or engage in the process,” and complained that the BCTGM called for its strike on November 9 without first notifying the Teamsters.

They said that, unlike the bakery union, the Teamsters voted to “protect all jobs at Hostess.” Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall said Wednesday’s court approval for liquidation marked “a sad day for thousands of families affected by the closing of this company.”

Bakery union President Frank Hurt has said that any labor agreements would only be temporary as Hostess was doomed anyway. The union said new owners were needed to get Hostess back on track and the only way they would return to work was if Hostess rescinded its wage and benefit cuts.

“Our membership … just had no confidence in this management group being able to run a business,” said Conrad Boos, a BCTGM local business representative in Missouri.

Hurt was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday but the union said in a court filing its sole objective was to leave Hostess with “a real, rather than an illusory or theoretical, likelihood of establishing a stable business with secure jobs.”

On Wednesday, Hostess’ lawyer Heather Lennox said the company had received a “flood of inquiries” from potential buyers for several brands that could be sold at auction, and expects initial bidders within a few weeks.

(Additional reporting by Peter Rudegeair in NEW YORK; Editing by Paul Tait)