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Columns

December 1, 2012

In defense of Twinkies -- and unions

(Continued)

The whole Hostess saga is tinged with nostalgia. The company has been criticized for failing to update its business model, clinging stubbornly to its core products of Twinkies and Wonder Bread even as the American palate has shifted away from bland, fatty, carb-laden products.

And as union membership in the United States continues to decline, the striking Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union workers seem like an anachronism. Nowadays, workers are supposed to just be happy to have a job, right?

I think not. I just can’t fault anyone for trying to save his or her job, or fight against pay and benefit cuts. Wouldn’t you, if you could? 

For those of us non-unionized folks, when our boss tells us that we’re not going to get a raise, that we need to work different hours, that our health care costs are going up or that our pensions are going away, what can we do about it? We can complain, or we can quit. Most of us choose the former. And as we do so, how many of us are secretly wondering if the people at the top are enduring the same austere measures?

Unions get to voice these thoughts loud and clear; and, more importantly, they stand a decent chance of actually being able to do something about it. Doesn’t sound like such a bad deal from where I sit. 

It’s a shame when union workers are seen as being just as indulgent and outmoded as Twinkies and Wonder Bread. I don’t want to see either one of them consigned to history. But if I had to choose, I’d take unions over baked goods any day.

EMILY F. POPEK is assistant editor of The Daily Star. Contact her at epopek@thedailystar.com.

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