The Union vs. Hostess, Circa 1939

Upon hearing the news that Hostess Brands, Inc. (home to Hostess Cakes, Wonder Bread, and tasty snacks such as Twinkies®, Ho Hos®, Snoballs®, and Ding-Dongs®) was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the BCTGM International Union* refused to accept contract terms, this photograph immediately came to mind:

Wonder Bakery Pavilion, 1939 Worlds Fair, NY

(click to enlarge; see photo credit below)

It’s Continental Baking Company’s “Wonder Bakery Pavilion” at the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York, New York. The building’s exterior, painted to resemble a Wonder Bread wrapper, included animated bakers in it’s front window. Inside, visitors could experience an actual working bakery producing Wonder Bread and Hostess cakes (and, I suspect, receive free samples or buy products), and then proceed behind the building to view New York city’s only operational wheat farm since 1871.

What struck me is the irony of the photograph: In 1939, the Continental Baking Company was less than ten years old, and wanted to announce their success to the world. And behind it, in the distance just left of the flag poles and looming over Wonder Bakery, was another entity wanting to announce their “success”: A large, stainless steel statue of a Union worker nicknamed “Big Joe”, crowning the nearly-completed pavilion of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic – the 2nd highest construction at the Fair (after the United States’ 700 foot-high Trylon). “Big Joe” represented an imposing, solitary figure of Socialist power within 1,216-acres of unbridled United States invention, hard work, and capitalism.

Seventy-three years later, a Union group of “Joes” (and, “Janes”) have demonstrated the power of Unions by forcing Hostess Brands – the current name of Continental Baking Company – into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and with it the loss of 18,000 Union and non-Union jobs.

Sure, I’m betting there was plenty of finger-pointing, name-calling, posturing, stubbornness, and mistakes by both Hostess Management and Union Management, and it’ll continue as Hostess is broken up like a decommissioned ship and fades into nostalgia.

But now those Union workers are going to learn the real – and in this case, fitting – lesson of Socialism: Once the means of production is eliminated, the workers don’t eat. It’s a lesson the Poles, Soviet-bloc countries, and finally the USSR learned decades ago.

(Added irony? The leader of the BCTGM International Union is named “Frank Hurt” – I’m sure hot dogs everywhere are lamenting the impending lack of hot dog buns!)

* that’s the “Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International” Union

Photo Source: “The New York World’s Fair 1939/1940″, by Richard Wurthers and Others, pg. 70, Image 71, Dover Publications, Inc., 1977, ISBN 0-486-23494-0. The image shown has been scanned, cropped, contrast-adjusted, and watermarked, and is used for editorial comment only.

Thanks for reading!

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