I have spent more time online away from Dailykos lately because I have been fighting misinformation about the Baker's Union around the web as best I can. In my searches I have come across an amazing amount of misinformation about Hostess in all sectors of the political spectrum. I have commented and debated all over the place and I cannot believe how many people accept the company PR spin as true. This post tears into these myths by looking at one of these posts point by point.
Most of this diary was originally posted in the comment section of someones personal blog. They had posted about reading my first blog post on Reddit. The blogs analysis of my post, however, was focused on a comment from kingofkona. This comment had even shaken the bloggers faith in the Union side of things. I have never spent a minute of life on Reddit before this. So I took a look.
It appears kingofkona's comment thread became a hiding place for conservatives and anti-Union bashers to avoid dealing with the truth about the causes of the strike. This post is the home of every anti-Baker's Union myth I have found. This person has successfully crafted the ultimate anthology of misinformation and company spin about the Hostess strike into one place. They even stir in just enough 'liberals are mentally ill' to make Jonas Goldberg proud. If this person doesn't work for Hostess, they should.
I am responding to this post by kingofkona not because it is intelligent or even relevant. I am responding because it provides me an opportunity to address these myths one point at a time.
If you read his psychoanalysis of me then I need to point out that I have never spoken to or interacted with this person. It is very clear that his only source of information was the company story line that they successfully put out during the strike. While employed we are banned from speaking to the media. They controlled the story while there was no public answer from the Union during the entire court proceedings. The company had until the first day of the strike to set the story. If I believed the situation was what kingofkona so carelessly takes for granted, then I too would have doubts. But he makes a lot of assumptions about the offer that are simply false.
In fact, his entire analysis hangs from these assumptions. After his awkward part about not being condescending to the reader, who he thinks is like his like his 5 year old niece, he then becomes extremely condescending towards the Bakers Union members. I hope he gets a chance to read this. Mostly, I hope that everyone who read his misleading take on the Hostess situation sees the truth. After all, opinions without facts are no opinions at all.
Here is a list of assumptions he makes that are not only wrong, but invalidate everything he says about the situation. It is clear that ALL of his information, wherever he got it, is company spin.
1) His story about the new CEO saving us from the evil ‘previous’ executives is lacking so many details it can only be called false. There are no short stories.
a)Former CEO Brian Driscoll sent us The Pension Borrowing LetterIt was Rayburn who stopped pretending we would ever be repaid. It was Rayburn that asked the judge to waive the debt that the company had collected from our hourly work.
b) When former CEO Driscoll filed Hostess into bankruptcy the company turned over it’s financials and the Union not only reviewed them, but discovered bonuses to executives that were hidden from the Union in violation of the contract. As a private company they didn’t have to prove the pay cuts were equal so they gave themselves massive bonuses. (why anyone would believe that the Union didn't review the company financials is beyond me.)
c) The Union challenged the bonuses in bankruptcy court, including an as yet unpaid bonus to Driscoll. The judge ruled the bonuses paid before bankruptcy could be kept but Driscoll’s would not be paid. He then resigned.
d) Rayburn is hired during the firestorm from workers. He puts on a PR bandaid and tells all the bonus recipients they would only make $1 for the rest of the fiscal year, less than four months.
Conclusion- Kingofkona couldn’t have left out more details. He did not analyze the situation, he analyzed the companies press release. They kept every cent of the bonus they received. They kept every cent of their contracted pay for the first 8 months of the year. Every one of those people pocketed more than the contract said they would over that same period, even after the four months at $1. In other words Rayburn in unworthy of any praise and defense. He is still just an employee of a privately held company, doing what his bosses tell him. The changing of CEOs does not absolve the company of their crimes.
2)He then proceeds to list the bullet points of an imaginary contract that was clearly dreamed up in the PR department and approved by the lawyers. Again, he never presents to the reader any mention of the Union’s viewpoint on any of his bullet points. He doesn’t even list a single one of the sacrifices asked of us in the Union.
a)”A twenty-five percent (25%) ownership stake” Factually wrong. It was split. 12.5% is for Bakers and 12.5% is for Teamsters. The Bakers stated goal is to force the sale to a real baking company. An equity stake in this company makes no sense because we have no faith in their business model. This 'ownership' comes in the form of third tier debt and will be waived in the next bankruptcy.
b)”A package of bonds in the company to go to the employees with a face value of $100,000,000 that would generate interest and be repaid in the future”. Again, this is 3rd tier debt that will be waived in the next bankruptcy with the waive of a hand.
c)”Two seats on the board of the directors” Ooooh goodie! No we can be ignored in person and still have no voting power at all. Only 1 seat was for the Bakers, 1 was for the Teamsters. They are adding two seats to the board, not replacing two seats. It would be the exact same people with an overwhelming majority on the board. It was an offer of nothing. 2 out of 9 seats, to quote Star Trek 'twice nothing is still nothing.'
d)”Cut existing pay levels to fall in line with other major bakeries”. Funny, that’s not how the contract reads. Perhaps he would like to back that claim up with some evidence. The pay cut he fails to mention is 27% over 5 years and would have lowered my pay per hour from $16.12 to $11.26. That would be far below the industry standard at large scale bakeries, even non-Union ones.
e)”Do like the other 90% of American manufacturing firms have and “freeze” pension plans, meaning that any new employees will have to use a 401(k) instead.” If by ‘freeze’ you mean total elimination and withdrawal from, sure. If you think we were offered a chance to send our $4.25 hourly pension money to a 401k then you don’t know what you are talking about. This is the most offensive part of kingofkona's failed storyline. And makes it easy for people to dismiss what the strike was actually about.
f)”Pay more out of pocket for some other expenses such as insurance” The weekly insurance premium will double to $70. Including the weekly premium, we will earn at 40 hours a pretax $380 for take home.
Conclusion- Draw your own. I wonder if kingofkona would vote for the actual offer, not the one he made up?
3) In addition to the 27% over 5 years he forgot to mention, he seems to have missed the single most important sacrifice we have had forced on us. A year ago August they ‘borrowed’ the $4.25 an hour that we pay to our pension. In other words, they continue to collect the $4.25 an hour from our hourly earnings but they stopped sending the money to the pension. The contract said that the $4.25 an hour would simply disappear from our compensation. That is an additional 20% cut more than a year ago that no one ever mentions. This contract would have made that permanent.
4) His description of the Teamsters views on the situation are cartoon like. Again, this is as rosy a description as the English language would allow. It don’t have time to begin to ridicule this statement to the level it deserves.
5) Personally I don’t know or care about ‘game theory’ but if it means what he says it does “When faced with a total wipeout, you take the option that gives you the greatest long-term chance of survival.” then by his own definition, that’s what we did. Who is he to tell us which option provided us with greatest chance? Especially considering all of the details he has conveniently left out. I assume that 'game theory' includes having all the facts at your disposal while choosing your path. Maybe it doesn't. Who cares. Did it occur to him that many of us will get our jobs back with new owners? Possibly even most of us. If that happens then I guess we 'gamed' it just fine.
6)He then launches into a barrage of conclusions he has jumped to based solely on his total lack of information of the Bakers side of the issue. He even drops in a falsehood about ‘right to work’ states. Both of the bakeries I’ve worked at were located in ‘right to work’ states. If he were a journalist he would deserve to be fired.
7) Most insultingly he suggests that the owners have been wiped out. That is outright false. The current owners have publicly stated they expect to sell the brands and facilities for $2.4 Billion. There debt in court is $1.05Billion. That would be a profit of $1.35Billion on their decade with Hostess.
That profit will not be used to pay back to the pension the money they stole for over a year. The judge has already waived that debt. It will also not be used to pay all the smaller businesses that have been screwed in Bankruptcy court either of the two times that these owners have 'failed up'. The irony of kingofkona’s post, lies in this sentence “there is a thing called confirmation bias in psychology that causes people to only want to hear what they already believe.” He is certainly not a psychologist. If he were, he would see that he is describing himself and every other anti-Union person I have put up with for the last 3 weeks.
Most of this was originally posted at someone's personal blog while I was searching for Hostess half-truths.