NEW YORK -- Twinkies may not last forever after all.
Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of iconic childhood treats including Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, filed a motion to liquidate Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Court after a prolonged union battle.
Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike last week after rejecting a contract offer that slashed wages and benefits. The bakers union represents about 30 percent of the company's workforce.
A representative for the bakers union did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The company had reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which this week urged the bakery union to hold a secret ballot on whether to continue striking.
Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters, said his union members decided to make concessions after hiring consultants who found that the company's financials were in a dire situation.
"We believed there was a pathway for this company to return to profitability," Mr. Hall said, noting that the liquidation could've been prevented if the bakery union had agreed to some concessions as well.
Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn said in an interview that there was no buyer waiting in the wings to rescue the company. But without giving details, he said that there has been interest in some of its 30 brands, which include Dolly Madison and Nature's Pride snacks. Experts agreed that it was likely the biggest brands would survive.
Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than three years. Unlike many of its competitors, Hostess had been saddled with high pension, wage and medical costs related to its unionized workforce.
The shuttering of Hostess means the loss of about 18,500 jobs. Hostess said employees at its 33 factories were sent home and operations suspended Friday. Its roughly 500 bakery outlet stores will stay open for several days to sell remaining products.
In a statement on the company website, Mr. Rayburn said there would be "severe limits" on the assistance the company could offer workers because of the bankruptcy. The liquidation hearing will go before a bankruptcy judge Monday afternoon.
The company's demise stoked nostalgia among customers.
Samantha Caldwell of Chicago also took a quick detour on her way to work Friday morning after she heard the news on NPR. The 41-year-old attorney got a package of two Twinkies to have with her morning tea, and another for her 4-year-old son, who has never had one.
"This way he can say, 'I had one of those,' " she said.
First Published November 17, 2012 5:00 AM