Hostess told striking workers they needed to return to their jobs by 2 p.m. Thursday or the company would go out of business – the deadline passed and workers continued their strike.
Workers at a ColumboFrench bread bakery said they've joined bakers at 26 other Hostess plants nationwide on strike after a judge imposed a contract with too many cuts.
The bankrupt company said the contract is necessary to stay in business.
Union leaders said the company has been mismanaged and now workers are being asked to sacrifice too much.
Workers said their wages have been cut, pensions have been frozen but executive pay has increased.
Dave Morgan, who has worked at the bakery for 28 years, said 92 percent of union members voted to walk out saying enough is enough.
"They're trying to make a profit by taking away from the workers wages, not by sales or any improvement in the product," Morgan said.
Although operations continued Thursday, company officials said it can't continue with a shortage of workers and may have to liquidate.
Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn said the only alternative, if the workers don't come back, is to shut down completely, which he says will hurt everyone.
"The problem is that we don't have enough crossing those lines to maintain normal production to keep our customers in stock," Rayburn said. "So we're appealing to those on picket lines to go back to work and avoid putting 18,000 people out of work."
The company set a 2 p.m. deadline Thursday for workers to return. Many said it's unlikely any decision will be announced until Friday, but it's possible more than 18,000 people could lose their jobs if the company decides to go out of business permanently.
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