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Strike Over, Twinkie Shortage Ends

March 24, 2000

BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) _ An eight-day strike against Interstate Bakeries Corp. that cut off the flow of Twinkies, Wonder Bread and other products across the Northeast ended on Thursday, union officials said.

The company and the Teamsters union agreed to additional talks on a labor dispute next week, and the Teamsters agreed to go back to work as a gesture of goodwill, said Dennis Raymond, chairman of the Teamsters’ New England Bakery Drivers Council.

``Right now it sounds like everyone is going to get their Twinkies,″ said Robert Piccone, president of Teamsters Local 340.

About 1,400 Teamsters walked off the job March 15, accusing Kansas City, Mo.-based Interstate of refusing to abide by arbitration rulings. The company says the process was unfair and asked a judge to clarify the process; the union says the company refused to participate.

One of the major sticking points has been the company’s requirement that drivers deliver more than one brand of Interstate products. The Teamsters say drivers are supposed to be paid different amounts for each brand.

Because of the strike, the company’s Biddeford plant, which makes J.J. Nissen, Wonder Bread, Hostess and Drake’s products, was shut down, putting 400 bakers out of work.

Teamsters in five other states honored the pickets, shutting down plants in New York City, Philadelphia, Wayne, N.J., and Buffalo, N.Y.

Another plant in Akron, Ohio, was shut down by Teamsters sympathetic to a separate issue at a Pittsburgh distribution hub, where contracts expired for 140 Teamsters back in October.

Eventually, the strike put more than 5,000 people, including both Teamsters and members of the Bakers Union, out of work.

A company official had estimated the strike cut off delivery of about 2 million Twinkies and cupcakes per week and another 400,000 loaves of Wonder bread.

But it all came to an abrupt end Thursday after the company and the Teamsters reached a labor agreement for the Pittsburgh workers.

They also agreed to resume talks with the New England drivers next Thursday and Friday in hopes of adopting a new contract and resolving the dispute over the arbitration rulings, Raymond said.

``We decided to pull the pickets down and to have a cooling off period and put people back to work,″ he said.

On the picket line in Biddeford, where a banner that read ``Fort Twinkie″ hung, workers let out a cheer when they heard the news shortly after 6 p.m.

``It’s been cold out here but we stuck together. A bunch of us stuck together and got it done,″ said Bob Axelson of Limington.

Bill Turkewitz, of the Local 340, said he was pulling pickets in Biddeford and pickets were being removed elsewhere as well.

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