Decision expected today on closing Hostess bakeries

DENVER - A decision on the fate of the maker of Hostess Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread is expected to be revealed Friday, one day after a deadline passed for striking bakers to return to work.

Hostess Brands Inc., based in Irving, Texas, operates 36 bakeries nationwide and has about 18,300 employees.  It has a bakery on East 62 Avenue near Interstate 25 in Adams County.

Hostess had given striking members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union until 5 p.m. Eastern time to get back to work or prompt the liquidation of the snack maker, which has been in bankruptcy court since January.

Thursday evening, Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn spoke on CNBC about the possible shutdown.

"It’s not a threat," he said. "It’s a consequence."

Earlier this week, Hostess announced it was permanently closing three bakeries following a nationwide strike by its bakers union.

Hostess said Monday that the strike had prevented it from producing and delivering products, and it closed bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati. The facilities employ 627 workers.

"We deeply regret this decision, but we have repeatedly explained that we will close facilities that are no longer able to produce and deliver products because of a work stoppage -- and that we will close the entire company if widespread strikes cripple our business," Rayburn warned.

Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 to protest cuts to wages and benefits under a new contract offer, which the union rejected in September. Union officials say the company stopped contributing to workers' pensions last year.

Hostess has argued that workers must make concessions as it tries to improve its financial position. The privately-held food maker filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.  Hostess cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing.

The company, founded in 1930, is fighting battles beyond labor costs, however. Competition is increasing in the snack space and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating.