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November 20, 2012

Twinkies to stick around? Judge orders talks between Hostess management and bakers' union

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Twinkies won't die that easily after all.

Hostess Brands Inc. and its second largest union will go into mediation to try and resolve their differences, meaning the company won't go out of business just yet. The news came yesterday after Hostess moved to liquidate and sell off its assets in bankruptcy court citing a crippling strike last week.

The bankruptcy judge hearing the case said yesterday that the parties haven't gone through the critical step of mediation and asked the lawyer for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which has been on strike since Nov. 9, to ask his client, who wasn't present, if the union would agree to participate. The judge noted that the bakery union, which represents about 30 percent of Hostess workers, went on strike after rejecting the company's latest contract offer, even though it never filed an objection to it.

"Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike," said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. "Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case."

Hostess and the union agreed to mediation talks, which are expected to begin the process on today.

In an interview after the hearing on Monday, CEO Gregory Rayburn said that the two parties will have to agree to contract terms within 24 hours of the Tuesday meeting since it is costing $1 million a day in overhead costs to wind down operations. But even if a contract agreement is reached, it is not clear if all 33 Hostess plants will go back to being operational.

"We didn't think we had a runway, but the judge just created a 24-hour runway," for the two parties to come to an agreement, Rayburn said.

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