The largest union at Hostess Brands Inc. has won one round in its battle with the bankrupt maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread.

A federal bankruptcy judge denied Hostess’ motion to scrap a labor contract with the Teamsters in a ruling late Monday. That was a victory for workers at Hostess, which employs 505 in eight communities in Maine. Most of those workers are in Biddeford, where Hostess operates a bakery and distribution center.

“It’s a rare day when a bankrutpcy judge denies a company’s request to reject its union contracts,” said Teamster General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall. “We told our Hostess members all along that we would vigorously oppose the imposition of unjust working conditions since Hostess first filed bankruptcy, and we have done just that.”

Last week, a smaller union at Hostess wasn’t so lucky. Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Hostess could abandon some contract agreements and modify some retirees’ benefits with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

Unions at Hostess have threatened to strike if the labor contracts are voided and the company imposes new work rules. Hostess has said a strike would force it to liquidate.

Despite the court wrangling, the company and the union continue negotiating to reach a new labor agreement. “We remain hopeful,” said Leigh Strope, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters.

Hostess said it will continue to bargain with the unions to reach new labor agreements.

The bakery union said it will lobby for the same contract terms included in any new labor agreement won by the Teamsters.

“We won’t do anything less than the Teamsters,” said Frank Hurt, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

“A final decision is not expected for a couple of weeks. We’re waiting to see if Hostess will survive — if someone comes in and saves them or they liquidate. Sooner or later, it will come to a head,” Hurt said. Bids to buy the company were due May 9. A decision on a buyer may take several weeks, Hurt said.

Hostess, which is in its second bankruptcy in less than a decade, employs 18,500 workers and operates about 36 bakeries nationally. The company, founded in 1930, filed for bankruptcy in January under $860 million in debt.

Earlier this month, Hostess notified the state that it may be forced to lay off workers and liquidate if it cannot successfully reorganize or sell its assets.

 

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]