January 14, 2013

Letters to the editor: Critique of Hostess workers half-baked

After reading Davies Allan's letter to the editor ("After vain pay hike request, strikers now public burden," Jan. 8), I felt compelled to respond and educate Mr. Allan just a bit.

click image to enlarge

The Hostess Brands Inc. products that were made in Biddeford included: CupCakes, Sno Balls, mini CupCakes and a variety of Wonder and J.J. Nissen breads. Employees of the Biddeford plant went on strike because Hostess was misappropriating pension funds, not because they wanted higher wages, a reader says.

2012 File Photo/Gregory Rec

First and foremost: The strikers were not striking over pay. If that were the case, they would have been on strike for more than five-plus years now.

The Biddeford workers were making more per hour in 2003 than they were in 2012, and that's before the 8 percent pay reduction in 2012 took place. The workers never once thought the pay "wasn't good enough," as Mr. Allan stated.

The issue was the stealing. The backbone of every worker's retirement is planning, and the workers who Mr. Allan states want to "ride for free" have been very responsible, to the tune of putting aside 25 percent of their pay for retirement.

Up until August 2011, Hostess was sending those wages to the workers' chosen destination: their pension fund. Then Hostess decided that a 300 percent wage increase for their CEO, among other things, was more important than safeguarding the workers' retirement funds and started using those funds for their own benefit.

The workers tried for more than a year to get Hostess to return that money. Hostess was not only not returning it, but they were going to use U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., to allow it to happen.

Even after the judge gave Hostess open reign to take what they wanted, the workers were still willing to work with Hostess, but only if the stealing of the pension funds stopped, an issue Hostess felt was not necessary to address.

One last fact: The average worker had about 15 years of seniority. That's a lot of rowing of the boat they now, as Mr. Allan states, "ride in for free."

John Jordan


As old, young vie for funds, Pentagon budget unscathed

In a recent Tribune Washington Bureau article on spending priorities ("Competing interests cloud spending picture," Jan. 3), the author reduced the matter to an inevitable clash between two groups: those over 50 and those in their teens and 20s.

The gist of the article might be summed up as: Do we support health care and retirement benefits, or do we support education and job training?

This is a classic "divide and conquer" tactic to keep well-meaning segments of our society pitted against one another. This plays nicely into our love of events that produce winners and losers.

In fact, these two population segments are natural allies. On the one hand, people near retirement have decades of life skills and on-the-job experience that, if not passed down, will be lost. On the other hand, youth needs every bit of collective wisdom to manage a path into the future for themselves and their families

What is conspicuous by its absence in the article is any discussion of military spending. Federal military spending is the "elephant in the room" that no one wants to talk about today.

This has not always been the case.

On April 16, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his notable "Cross of Iron" speech, in which he spoke clearly and eloquently about a world dominated by military spending and militaristic policies. He said, "This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

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