The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 19, 2013

Labor Department cites assistance for workers hit by Hostess closure

By Wally Kennedy

— Nearly 400 workers throughout Missouri affected by the closure of Hostess Brands Inc., including about 24 workers in the Joplin area, can now receive training and re-employment services via a $2,183,749 National Emergency Grant, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday.

At the same time, a bankruptcy judge in New York on Tuesday approved the sale of Twinkies and other popular Hostess brands to a pair of investment firms, one of which has said it hopes to have the cakes back on shelves by summer.

Hostess, which operated a bakery storefront at 2815 E. 32nd St., employed drivers in the Joplin area to distribute Wonder Bread and other Hostess products locally.

Leslie Abram, rapid response coordinator for the Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri, on Tuesday said about two dozen people in the region will be affected by the grant, including some who live in the Joplin area but who were employed by Hostess in Springfield.

Those workers, she said, were certified in February under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act to receive training dollars if they want to return to school to learn a new skill.

The National Emergency Grant, awarded to the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, will provide assistance to workers in conjunction with other benefits they will receive as a result of their eligibility for trade adjustment assistance. Under the grant and the trade adjustment program, affected workers will receive the training and support services they need to find new jobs in their state.

In February, the department certified about 18,000 workers in 48 states who lost their jobs at 864 Hostess company locations as eligible to apply for trade adjustment benefits.

Abram said the National Emergency Grant is the same kind of grant Joplin received to help people who lost their jobs after the May 2011 tornado.

Information meetings for the local Hostess workers will be held to explain how the grant may affect them, she said.

Most of the Missouri workers were employed at 39 Hostess sites scattered across the state. The grant also will serve Missouri residents who were employed at three locations in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. It also may assist workers who were leased to Hostess by other companies.

Of the $2,183,749 grant, $1,257,671 will be released initially. Additional funding, up to the amount approved, will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

Hostess Brands Inc. is selling Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and other brands to Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million. Evan Metropoulos, a principal of the latter firm, said that he wants to have the snack cakes back on shelves by June.

Judge Robert Drain of U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York also approved the sale of Wonder Bread to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes and other breads. Flowers, based in Thomasville, Ga., also would get Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita brands as part of the $360 million deal.

A Hostess spokesman said 29 of the bankrupt company’s 36 bakeries were sold as part of the transactions. It will be up to the new owners whether to hire back the thousands of workers who lost their jobs when the company went out of business.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

Long struggle

HOSTESS CLOSED ITS FACTORIES in late November after a strike by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. The company had been struggling financially for years.