Hostess leaders liquidation threats go unheeded

TULSA - Tulsa's Hostess workers will likely find out Friday if they still have a job after the company threatened to liquidate due to a work strike.

End the strike or the companies will be shut down -- that's what company leaders said Wednesday. Now it may take another 24 hours before Hostess determines its next step.

Striking workers across the country were given until 5 p.m. ET Thursday to get back to work, according to a statement posted to the company's website.

"We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike," said Gregory F. Rayburn, chairman and chief executive officer of Hostess.

The move could result in 18,000 lost jobs nationwide, including some right here in Green Country. The Wonder Bread plant at 11th and South Sheridan, which employs 160 people, is owned by Hostess.

The facility ran all day, but workers at the picket line told 2NEWS reporter Breanne Palmerini it didn't seem to be running very efficiently, citing the periodic smell of burning bread.

The striking workers -- about half the plant's workforce -- doubt the seriousness of the company's threats.

"Ninety-two percent of the all the bakeries voted down their contract and they told us if we turned it down they would liquidate immediately, which they didn't do," said 26-year-old employee and union member Doyle Briggs. "They told us if we go on strike they would liquidate immediately, which obviously they haven't done."

And if they do, many of the picketers still feel confident.

"Well if they liquidate, we feel like we get a better deal with the new people that come in," said local union leader Fred Frierson. "Somebody's going to buy it. So somebody is going to pick that volume up that's out there and we feel like we'll be able to come up with a better deal than we have now."

There are 33 bakeries in the company, a third of which have no strike activity. The others have varying levels of production due to the strike, said Hostess spokesman Lance Ignon.

According to Ignon, a number of employees contacted the corporate office, saying they want to go back to work but were threatened by other employees.

At the center of the strike is a new contract, which would cut their wages, pensions and benefits.

The company filed for bankruptcy in January -- the second time since 2004.

If the strike continues, the company could shut down as early as next Tuesday.

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