Ding Dong the union is dead - update

Posted By: Jerry Agar · 11/18/2012 8:52:00 AM

What is better? A job with decent pay and benefits or a demand for more pay that results in no jobs?

The unions representing the workers at Hostess in the United States; makers of Twinkies and Ding Dongs, chose the latter. The company was teetering on bankruptcy as the workers went out on strike. That being the final straw for the financially struggling business, they closed, and about 18,500 workers are now not working.

Are those people better off?

Hostess has been struggling for years against, some experts say, smaller, nimble companies that are not burdened as Hostess is with, as the company reports, huge pension obligations and high union wages.

The public doesn't make its choices in the snack aisle based on whether they think the company producing the item pays well. They make their choice based on price and the desirability of the product.

Many retailers had already dropped Hostess items from their lineup as the company, with workers on strike, could not supply enough product. Hostess reports that even if people came back to work, they could not get all of that business back.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka tried to blame Mitt Romney and his company. “What’s happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures make themselves rich by making America poor,” Trumka said in a public statement. “Crony capitalism and consistently poor management drove Hostess into the ground, but its workers are paying the price.”

The "Bain style" is to restructure a company and right-size everything, including payroll, to save the company and as many jobs as possible. The "union style" in this case, was to drive the company out of existence. In this case, everybody loses, including those who invested over the past decade as Hostess struggled to survive.

Will public unions in Ontario take the same scorched earth approach? Are the teachers willing to go down fighting? Education will always stay in business, but eventually, it is the unions that will have to go, or as with Hostess, thousands of people will be standing baffled and unemployed on the streets wondering why their slogans, placards and greed didn't save them once again.


A number of people, having read this blog or the Toronto Sun column version of it, followed by a reading of this editorial in the Toronto Star, wrote to me saying that I should apologize or update. I will do the latter.

The Star editorial reads, "What happens when vulture capitalism ruins a great company? The vultures blame the workers. The vultures blame the union. And vapid media outlets report the lie as “news.”

You can read the rest by clicking the link above.

Management at Hostess may have been incompetent. They may have been greedy. That has nothing to do with my argument.

What if the union members are 100% "right" in their arguments? They went out on strike and the company folded. There is a legal attempt to get Hostess to make agreements with the unions and stay in business. We'll see how that works out, but if 18,500 people end up unemployed, how does being "right" help them? Will the grocer supply food for their families for free because they were "right?"

Some people have written to me to ask whether I would take a 30% cut in pay. Not happily, that is for sure. Perhaps not even willingly, but I would only walk out if and when I had a new job lined up that would pay me more than what I would be left with after the cut. My family seems to want to insist on eating under a roof.

I think the workers allowed themselves to be ill-used by the union. They gambled and they lost. Unions have always threatened employers with damage to the business that employed them. They lived by that sword, now in this case, they may die by it, and for the families of those workers, that is sad.

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  1. Walcott posted on 11/18/2012 05:10 PM
    Oranges to pianos again Jerry?

    What you're pointing out is that an established company was slashed and undersold by 'nimble' fly-by-night suppliers who use poorly paid grossly expendable workers to turn out cheaper, often inferior products to flood the market, take short term profits and vapourize themselves, often leaving those expendable worthless human assets high and dry only to move on to the next misadventure in profit taking.

    You would have workers in Ontario accept pitiful wages, no benefits, no pensions no chance for a recognizable standard of living and be ok with this because they should be grateful that corporations haven't yet found a way to reap profits without these little people in the mix?

    Unions keep employers across all sectors 'honest', a recent Hardvard School of Business report supports this fact...not that such reports would find their way. Into these scary neo-con arguments.

    Should unions recognize the realities in today's world?
    Most certainly.

    Should unions simply accept that because the corporations and governments their members work for are too often corrupt and incompetent wasting shareholder and too often tax payer funds on their own agendas, creating financial distress and as a result the workers who simply show up to do the job they were hired for must then act as scape goats and pay for their employer's or their government manager's mistakes? No.

    Teachers work damn hard. The bad ones should be fired, but your style of rhetoric has sidelined the real issues behind the present situation they are in with the Ont Govt and you've served that government, knowingly or not as a propaganda tool. As for the public services unions in talks right now, they've asked for nothing extraordinary, in fact mny recognize the hard times and have offered, and have been rebuffed, to accept no pay raises or significant gains, to remain at the status quo and continue on the job without disrupting services. What they are getting is a demand to forfeit wages (which have not increased generally since2005) submit to unrealistic claw backs on basic health care benefits (already below most private company packages) and accept reduced or eliminated compassionate allowances...short term sick leave, unpaid days etc.

    Recently a deal was struck to address the pension issues with the provinces public services union...a deal that allowed the Government to save millions on the backs of the union, a deal the union went along with because Jerry they do realize what's going on. What they get in return is the kind of angry bulling static so often broadcast during your show.

    What are you trying to say?
    Eliminate unions.
    Eliminate pensions and benefits for workers period.
    Screw the little guys.
    Enjoy the Walmart world of low prices on the backs of sweat shop labour and poorly paid employees everywhere?

    You miss the opportunity to address what's really going on here, maybe you can't see that the notion of letting the market decide everything from commerce to social policy is fool hardy.

    We no longer control the market.

    Money has no loyalty and if you want to believe otherwise you will be disappointed every time.

    We need to balance the market realities with our own notions of social justice, because if it does simply come down to who controls the market, we've already lost and no amount of tea party neo-con ranting will change that.

    Hostess was a company that built success on product, marketing and people, it has fallen to faceless profit taking sweat shops, yummy, and you think that's ok as the union is to blame.

    Well...there's a lot more going on here and it's a shame you're unable or unwilling to look a little deeper.
    1. mcscrewedoutthe door. posted on 11/21/2012 05:40 AM
      @Walcott salAs someone who just got run through the ringer at mcdonald;s"raped" by mcdonald's and dropkicked out the door your anti-union rhetoric totally ringscompletely Hollow Jerry .go to McDonalds at Hamshire Gate in Oakville and ask Former employees about the "Due Process" and Recourse Options employees have and the :NOnRIGHTS employees have at this mcdonalds Interview Former Employees from this location Jerry..Here's your Investigative Inside Story Jerry, EMployee hosed and taken to cleaner and run through mcdonald's mcmeat grinder Jerry, Employee Rights at Mcdonalds' ? HAH!!!!!!!!!!!
    2. John posted on 11/21/2012 08:51 AM
      @Walcott @Walcott - "Enjoy the Walmart world of low prices on the backs of sweat shop labour and poorly paid employees everywhere?"

      Is this a self-fulfilling situation? Just who is it that shops at stores like Walmart for the low prices? If you want everyone to have good, well-paying jobs and benefits, how do you do that when everyone is looking for the cheapest price on a product or service?

      Or is it okay to take advantage of other people as long as it benefits you?
  2. Richard Collins posted on 11/19/2012 09:50 AM
    You've hit the nail on the head, Jerry. The union business model is completely unsustainable and destructive, and we need to get rid of it entirely.

    Remember, if you have to blackmail your employer with threats of strikes and the destruction of the company you work for in order to get a wage, YOU DO NOT DESERVE THAT WAGE.
    1. Henry j posted on 11/19/2012 01:21 PM
      @Richard Collins So if they feel you deserve a fraction of what you and your co-workers had been making the week before you're ok with no recourse if your company just turns around and slashes your pay as you deserve only what they want to give you?

      You must have been on the management team at CAT in London.
  3. indy posted on 11/19/2012 01:17 PM
    jerry, i get a laugh from people like the guy who commented first here. first off common sense dictates that if the company is ilwilling to pay proper wages than they will never find quality workers. secondly consumption can NOT continue on this scale that unions are so willing to fight for and feel is there right. its a joke. it sucks that i can't get a twinky anymore but if it were up to our friend here he'd have them bailed out by our tax dollars im sure. UNIONS MUST GO!!!
    1. Samantha posted on 11/19/2012 09:29 PM
      @indy common sense TRUMPS greed ?

      ...yeah how's that working out so far?
    2. Gerry Andrews posted on 11/19/2012 09:54 PM
      @indy Well, we're all having a belly laugh at your keen observations, great spelling and ability to pucker up to Jerry's back side indy.
  4. Stephen Smith posted on 11/19/2012 02:08 PM
    This is the second time Hostess has been in Chp 11 they emerged about 4 years ago and then went back in a year ago. Clearly the business plan is flawed in some way and much more so than just a union issue.

    Secondly it was only the bakers part of the union that rejected the wage and pension rollback, everyone else accepted it, so to say this is all the unions fault is a little too simplistic, it was a militant part of the whole.

    Finally reading some of the comments on here about time or unions to go and everything will be fine really is just low handing fruit and the lazy answer. Cutting someones pay seems fine to some people until it starts to happen to them. And that may have happenned to you, sorry for that, but what if it happens again to you, what do you do. And if you think people won't work for low wages think again, there's always someone willing to take the job from you.

    This kind of thinking is just a race to the bottom for everyone.
    1. indy posted on 11/19/2012 02:28 PM
      @Stephen Smith your final point is laughable... if you truly believe that the union had nothing to do with hostess' collapse your just plain uneducated and need to read some facts. first off it was hostess that publicly said they can not continue due to large pensions due and wages being so high. secondly to say that getting rid of the union is the lazy answer once again shows your rediculousness, taking a pay cut is reality of our econemy and yes there always will be someone willing to work for less... that is unless you actually have a skill in which case the market will dictate what you should make. my point is that alls unions do is drive up price of labour beond a sustainable pattern and thus is why companies like hostess are going out of business
    2. don cherry was right posted on 11/20/2012 10:23 AM
      @Stephen Smith As long as you buy crap made in China, at slave wages, then youy gotta accept slave wages yourself. Dont see too many CEO types shopping at Walmart do you? BTW, dont see too many Canadian made cars there either.
  5. Gerry Andrews posted on 11/19/2012 09:51 PM
    "...angry bullying static..."

    That's perfect.
    Sums up the morning rage report with Jerry better than anything I've ever read.

  6. mike posted on 11/20/2012 01:05 AM
    SO while Hostes was trying to give workers a 8% wage cut and a 32% benefit cut the CEO of hostess took a 300% raise
    1. indy posted on 11/20/2012 08:00 AM
      @mike Why sholdnt the CEO get a rase? CEOs make jobs and unions need to know that if it wasnt for CEOs and companys that they would be nowhere. If the boss cant have a raise then valuable people like me wouldnt be valued enough to get minumum wagee.
  7. SteveB_10 posted on 11/20/2012 09:08 AM
    Jerry still living in an Ayn Rand fantasy park. The unions were given no choice but to commit suicide. If there is any justice the unions could buy up the abandoned factories and get back to work. However likely the vultures will have sold the brands to another rapist.
    1. don cherry was right posted on 11/20/2012 10:21 AM
      @SteveB_10 That (employee buying oplant ) has been tried. Remember algoma steel? How did THAT work for them?
  8. tom posted on 11/20/2012 09:37 AM
    Why is it ok to pay the top executives big bonuses to keep them in there position but not pay the workers there pay. Why is it always the workers fault? The managers that they just payed huge bonuses to keep are the ones that managed the business to fail not the UNION or the WORKER!!!! I suppose if the Toronto sun was going to fail you would blame the kids that deliver the paper and not the top brass that is mis managing it !!!!
  9. don cherry was right posted on 11/20/2012 10:16 AM
    The CAW slogan is apparently "the job is not done until the company is closed and the jobs are gone" Obviously bakers and teamsters think the same. EMT going south Chrysler jeeps going to china Westcast going, Polywheels. the iist is endless.LOL
  10. Paul Harris posted on 11/20/2012 10:55 AM
    Jerry, I want you to know that I like capitalism. It has been good to me and my family. I'm not a union member, and I've always worked in the private sector. But I like it when capitalists play fair. From what I've read, Hostess is a poorly managed company producing an out of fashion product line-up. Hedge funds have looted the company profits and the worker's pension fund. The workers have already made hundreds of millions in concessions, and the only way these clowns running the place can think up to make a profit is a further 30% wage cut that will take a skilled baker with 15 years experience to $11.00 an hour over the next five years. These are the kind of shenanigans that give capitalism a bad name, and third rate managers can't hide behind "the dog ate my homework" excuses blaming the unions. It just doesn't cut it. Let the company go under, and let these guys man up and accept the blame.
    1. George W posted on 11/20/2012 12:38 PM
      @Paul Harris Bang-on Paul.
      Jerry and "indy" and the rest that rage and rant about unions all seem to be blind to the fact that Government agencies and private corporations aike are often poorly managed by petty individuals with over developped notions of entitlement.
      CEOs raking in 100's of millions in bonuses, government managers with unchecked expense accounts and high 6 figure salaries, nepotism, cronieism and all the good stuff that truly does sap profits and effiecency are the larger contibutors to the situations so common in North America.
      It's just easier for the mouth breathers to throw the workers under the bus and after scewing facts just enough and whipping the mouth breathers into a frenzy this practice becomes business-as-usual.
  11. George w posted on 11/20/2012 01:55 PM
    don't apologize....but please don't do whatever this 'update' is supposed to be.

    Your argument is there in front of me....working for something is better than not working....right, got it.

    The issue isn't the principle of your post. It's the extreme the very title of the piece goes to...DING DONG (ha ha, I get it) THE UNION's DEAD...people are just fed up with the extreme RIGHT running to a slash and burn I told you so the sky is falling position.

    It didn't get Mitt elected in the states.

    It didn't get Whodat elected here...too spite a 10+ % lead in the polls...honestly how's he still the leader?!

    It won't win any arguments.

    Extreme RIGHT wing views are like extreme LEFT wing views...they are not correct and only exclude rational discussion and scare people away.

    Unions are not evil.

    The first comment on this post is correct, Unions actually keep things at an even keel in North America....and the fact that NA is no longer a manufacturing powerhouse doesn't change the fact that Canada and the United States are still two of the Premium Countries on the planet in which to live.

    They ARE NOT two of the premium countries in which to build/manufacture's not profitable and you can slash every union job you want, fire all the public servants you want and privitize all the Provincial and Federal assets you want and what you will end up with is a morally bankrupt, economically desolate, politically corrupt wasteland where we sit around all day trying to figure out why we're a shadow of ourselves toiling at 3 and 4 jobs a piece just pay rent while our betters live in gated communities....all the ranting in the world doesn't change the fact that we have to look for new ways.

    You're a smart guy, dig a little deeper and think a little broader.

    Hey...want to solve some of the TTC stuff right now right here?

    Ok.....go to the head office....every third executive gets called to appear before a tax payer representative board and has to explain in plan language what he or she does and why they're getting paid to do it.....after all are heard cull the heard starting at the top.
    ....service and ridership issues?
    Knock the fares back $0.25 - $0.50 and make the service so afforadable that people happily use the TTC instead of grudgingly.

    Want to address the "legacy costs" of public services?

    Same deal as the TTC go toe each and every Ministry office and take a hard look at the management groups and have at 'im.

    Look to Dalton's and Hudak's pensions as talk about a sweet deal, start slashing and restructuring there...or give all of us a pension for life after just 6 years on the job.

    I'm not arguing with your 'point' in this, I've been there and may well be there again - yes I'll work before I starve, but what you're saying is a little to close to let 'em all get just enough 'cause what alternative do they have ---- you can tap your finger tips together here and start laughing like a mad man if you like.
  12. proton posted on 11/20/2012 02:08 PM
    It's little skin off the union leaders' ass. They'll still have a job and be well paid while the workers they represent have nothing.

    Most people don't realize unions are a business, and in order to stay in business, they need to continually justify their existence (and union dues). If they're not militant enough their perceived usefulness will diminish hence outrageous demands to keep them front and center.
  13. Stephen Smith posted on 11/20/2012 02:51 PM
    Management at Hostess may have been incompetent. They may have been greedy. That has nothing to do with my argument.

    So then one side can do as it pleases and the other side has to sucjk it up for their mistakes?

    Sure it does your now arguing that even if one side acts in an incompetent manner the other side should overbalance in the opposite direction to right the ship. Where's the equity in that. Boy if that was the case and I was in management I'd ream this puppy called Hostess for all the bonus money I could since I can count on the other side to take the bullet for my greed.
  14. City Boy at Heart posted on 11/20/2012 03:56 PM
    Jerry, From what I gathered from American reports, Hostess had already dealt with their largest union,the Teamsters.They settled with them with apparent reductions.This was the second largest union in their employ that they were dealing with. In some reports, the Teamsters apparently contacted this union(one of those food worker unions)and tried to get them to loosen their stance because the Teamsters could see the writing on the wall.Hostess had already gone through bankruptcy court twice for restructuring.The Teamsters had no luck trying to convince them to change and we all know where there at right now.
  15. indy posted on 11/20/2012 04:02 PM
    So, you're basically saying that even if the union in this case did take what they were expected to that the company was likely doomed anyway?

    You just what? Saw this on the wire and thought "oh boy another chance to push my right-wing opinions and anti-union feelings down the listener's throats! goody goody goody!"

    To be clear none of the personalities on 1010 are's a shame some of them are mistaken for such.

    Don't appologize Agar.
    Actually you shouldn't have "updated" (you just lost another listener by the way).
    You should have just kept quiet until next week.

    Explain to us all what you really want to say...if in fact you actually know what you want to say. Going over your previous blogs and podcasts you just seem to have ranting ill-informed opinions on things you want changed, offer no practical steps or insite into how to change them and entertain only superficial 'discussions' on any subject without delving deeper into underlying issues and when a listener, or reader, disagrees with you, you either cut them off, belittle them like a bully or ignore them altogether.

    In a time when property tax, income tax, health tax, sales tax etc etc keep going up and services keep going down you argue that a working person should be grateful to scrape by?

    The last couple of comments are time you have Hudak in there with you do us all a favour and ask him when he's taking a kick in the can and coughing up that pension of his (funded almost %75 by tax payers) and ask him what all these mickey mouse tax cuts really mean for true working class families....what I'd be "saving" $600 a year if I'd voted PC last year??? I'd still be paying more across the board for less service and have a repeat of the worst of the Harris years to look forward too.

    For that matter if you can snag that weasle McGuinty into the studio one last time before he heads into the sunset ask him what the Liberals are doing with the Legislature shut??? Addressing outstanding contracts my ass. Their scuttling the ship for the next guy offering a 24 month agreement to the public service and poisioning the waters so that the next government (likely NDP -God help us) who ever they are walk into a perfect storm allowing the Liberals to regroup and ride in like heros in another 2 or three years....

    They are all to blame. And the cuts need to happen at Queen's Park and at the Ministers' offices...the front-line schlubs are the least of the issue.

    As far as all those pitching in and shitting on unions they should give thier heads a shake and unless they're O'Leary or Tory in disguise realize that the companies and government bureaucrats that own controlling interests in so much of the media infrastructure have masterfully pitted us against one and other while they profit from the mess.

    I DARE YOU JERRY AGAR TO CALL OUT HUDAK, MCGUINTY, HORVATH on their private little piles.

    Man-up if Astral let's you have some slack on your leash and put it too them that we working class schlubs (upon who they depend to get re-elected) have had enough and it's time for them to affect real change starting with their own group of entitled weasles.

    Until then.
    I'm done -- not that you care, but I'm changing my preset.

    try 820 am might not be as informative, but at least you'll get out of the car with a smile instead of a dull thumping rageache.
  16. Only Common Sense posted on 11/20/2012 04:19 PM
    A fond wish follows:
    Jerry Agar would be invited to participate in a panel with Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh , Michael Savage and Bill O'Reilly.
    Imagine having all that stupidity and gross over-simplification of things in one place at one time.
  17. working Steve posted on 11/20/2012 08:14 PM
    I' m in the CAW and build Canadian made vehicles here in Oshawa.

    I make good money and do a quality job so you and your loved ones can drive the 3500lbs of steel you rely on everyday safely to and from where you need to go.

    You want to cut my wages to the point where I can't feed my family, who also like to eat under a roof?

    I'll get another job.

    Who'll replace me will be either an uninterested kid or unqualified slob who dosen't give a crap about safety quality or what happens to the product or people who buy it once it's past there spot on the line.

    $35 to push a button?
    That's not only insulting, it is totally ignorant.

    Cars and Trucks can be made cheaper in Mexico and overseas where workers get paid a fraction of what they do in Canada and the US.

    These are 3rd world countries where intimidation and disregard for basic human rights factor into the business model.

    How Jerry and the rest of these want to be Republicans intentionally omit from these hate-ons is the fact that workers in this country are considered human beings first.

    That should be foremost on the consumer's mind before they get high and mighty about the costs of unions.

    Companys would be happy to slash wages and benefits...they'd be happier still to freely and openly treat workers as disposable commodoties as they do in Mexico, China, India...but so far the majority of us living in Canada and the States want to think we're better than those parts of the world.

    I'm Steve, I'm in a union, I build cars with attention and care, I pay taxes and I don't deserve to made to feel like shit because of it....and Jerry, I vote.

    After reading this you better believe I'm going to get all the other's working with me and living in my community to vote too.
  18. Markus posted on 11/20/2012 09:10 PM
    Worth reading. The other side

    Check the URL above
  19. screwedover posted on 11/21/2012 06:58 AM
    THe hostess situation is a tragedy unless ceos middle management and stakeholders are forced to make a show and share their incomes with lower level employees equitably, ive worked for both unregistered and "above board' chain corporation and unfortunately can see the "wild west" employer has treated me Much better than the "rogue' under the table employer, i say we go to town on unfair greedy vulture corporations that screw little guys like me sad to say..
  20. MichaelP posted on 11/21/2012 08:59 AM
    Blaming the unions for the failure of the company is pretty silly in my opinion. You have a CEO who pays himself a salary equal to that of the CEO of most Canadian banks and is responsible for driving the company into the toilet. Corporate culture starts at the top and it would appear based on the information we have that this was a grease fire long before the bakers strike. Not that I'm saying that the union in this case did the right thing. The goal of a union is to get their workers the best deal possible but more importantly to keep them employed. And it would appear that might not be happening here.

    I don't think this is anything like the public sector disagreements. No public worker is being asked to have his/her salary and pension benefits slashed. I think the workers in this case are incredidbly right to be pissed. Hard not to when you see the CEO of your company giving himself a raise while at the same time bankrupting the company and asking you to take far less. The "Bain style" works sometimes but it also at times drives profitable companies into the toilet by loading debt on the balance sheet.
  21. Stug posted on 11/22/2012 09:17 AM
    Jerry amazes me how many times you're wrong!
  22. carman greene posted on 11/26/2012 09:00 PM
    how much do you get paid & what do your beefits consist of?
  23. levon posted on 11/27/2012 10:50 AM
    The Walmart family made 15 bilion last year on the backs of workers making lousy pay and no benefits. Could they have made "only" 14 billion and offered better wages and beneifts?
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