Twinkie talk: When a union boss disagrees with his boss

Even a union boss has a boss, which is the situation Bob Ryder found himself in during the toe-to-toe standoff at Hostess Brands Inc -- maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies.

The long-troubled company, which operates bakeries around the country and a plant in Northeast Philadelphia, threatened that it would shut its business if plant operations didn't return to normal by Thursday, putting 18,000 out of work.  In the throes of bankruptcy, Hostess Brands Inc. asked for major concessions from its two major unions -- the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers.

The Teamsters sent ballots to the homes of its members, who narrowly approved the concessions. The Bakers held their election in the union halls and the concessions were defeated. The Bakers went on strike and the Teamsters were put in the position of having to cross a picket line.

"My people never crossed a picket line in their lives," said Ryder, who heads Teamsters Local 463. He represents 130 drivers, packing workers and mechanics at the Northeast Philadelphia plant.

Ryder didn't agree with the results of the Teamster vote, and even more, he didn't agree with the decision to cross the picket line. That decision, at least locally, Ryder said, came from William Hamilton, who heads the regional organization of Teamsters, District Council 53. Ryder said Hamilton told him that he was under orders from the national union, headed by James Hoffa Jr., to not sanction the strike.

"We voted to accept the concessions," Ryder said, sadly. He thinks accepting the concessions opens the doors for other companies to seek the same concession. And, in the end, he said, the result at Hostess would be the same. They were on their way out of business. "It would have been just a matter of time before they closed," he said.

Ryder has long been at odds with the local and national leadership of the Teamsters, supporting a rival who tried, unsuccessfully, to unseat Hoffa.

Click here to read about the Hostess shutdown.

Click here to read Joe DiStefano's blog about potential suitors.