Texas-based Hostess Brands, the company that makes Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes and Wonder Bread has announced that it is laying off all of its 18,500 employees and closing all of its U.S. facilities in response to a labor strike that has paralyzed the company since last weekend.

Hostess announced on Friday morning that workers had failed to meet a Thursday deadline to bring factory outputs back up to normal levels and end their strike.  The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union began the strike last weekend in protest of conditions imposed on the company under the terms of its most recent bankruptcy filing.

The union called the contract "outrageous."  The company, which stopped contributing to worker pensions in August, 2011, had announced that worker wages would be cut by 8 percent.

"You put in the time, you put in the years, I mean, we all have dedicated our lives to the company and they just don't appreciate it," said one worker.

On Monday, Greg Rayburn, CEO of Hostess, which also owns Dolly Madison bakeries and Merita bread, announced that the company intended to close plants in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Seattle in response to the strike.  St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said in an interview on Tuesday that he was given notice earlier this year about the closing in his city.

“I was told months ago they were planning on closing the site in St. Louis,” he said. “And there was no indication at that time that it had anything to do with the strike the workers were waging.”

Bakers' union representative Frank Hurst told the Kansas City Business Journal that Rayburn's attempt to blame the closures on the strike is part of "a disturbing pattern by the company of issuing public statements that are erroneous at best and disingenuous at worst.”

Hostess Brands filed for Chapter 11 protection in January of this year, its second bankruptcy, the first having taken place in 2004.  A statement on the company's website said that Hostess products which have already been baked will be shipped to stores and sold and bakery retail stores will stay open to sell through their supplies.

[image via Christian Cable, Flickr Commons]