A picket line has gone up at the Hostess Brands plant and store in Sacramento, part of a strike against the maker of Wonder bread, Twinkies and other baked treats that began Friday.
About a dozen pickets were marching at the Hostess operation on Arden Way near Business 80 this afternoon, with workers saying they were protesting proposed wage cuts and sharp increases in medical coverage costs.
Steve Polani, a six-year employee who said he works in production baking Hostess products, was one of three pickets in front of the Hostess store and said he was protesting an 8 percent pay cut, as well as increased medical costs that could go from $30 weekly to $100 weekly for some workers.
He was joined by Gloria Simble, a Hostess worker from Billings, Mont., who said she arrived about 2 p.m. today to bolster support for the labor action.
"They needed help," Simble said.
The pickets noted that a security guard was posted in the parking lot as a result of the strike. A worker inside the store said no one from the company was available to comment and declined to discuss the picket line.
Most of the pickets were at the rear of the plant, where trucks deliver supplies and leave with baked goods. A steward for Local 85 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union said he was not authorized to comment on the labor action.
But he provided a news release from the union that said workers were protesting a "horrendous contract" that 92 percent of Hostess' union members rejected in September.
"The contract calls for extreme wage and benefit cuts which amount to 27-32 percent overall, with an 8 percent reduction imposed immediately," the release said. "The company unilaterally ceased making contributions, required by their union contracts, to the workers' pensions in July 2011.
"Hostess has also imposed draconian cuts in health benefits and eliminated the eight-hour work day."
Hostess, a privately held company based in Irving, Texas, issued a release Friday warning that the company could be imperiled by the labor strife.
"A widespread strike will cause Hostess Brands to liquidate if we are unable to produce or deliver products," the company said. "If that's the case, the company will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,300-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders."
Hostess, which employs nearly 300 workers in Sacramento and about 1,850 in California, has struggled in recent years with two bankruptcy filings. The company issued warnings last summer to all of its workers that they could face a major layoff.
The labor action comes as Raley's workers remain on picket lines outside stores throughout the Sacramento region.