Ex-Hostess employees look for new opportunities

LAFAYETTE (AP) — The closure of Hostess Brands Inc. put the brakes on Gerald Robinson's career and left him without health

insurance for his family, including a son with asthma.

Robinson worked an early-morning shift as a Cotton's Holsum Breads route salesman in New Iberia.

Robinson, 50, joined other former Holsum/Hostess employees in reviewing their options last week during benefits orientation

sessions hosted by the Louisiana Workforce Commission in nine Louisiana cities.

The Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/UOtG1b ) three displaced employees attended the Lafayette session, a fraction of the

400 people statewide who lost their jobs.

Robinson and other former employees like

John Mac Melancon, 62, learned at the sessions how to keep up with

unemployment insurance

and improve job-seeking skills.

They hope to put that knowledge to use, but are concerned about their futures.

Robinson heard about the Hostess liquidation on the radio Nov. 16.

Robinson met up with other drivers completing their routes that morning, but no one knew what the liquidation meant for their

jobs. After a series of calls that led them to a supervisor in Mississippi, they finally got the answer.

"They basically told us to clean out our personal stuff from our lockers and that we didn't have jobs anymore," Robinson said.

Robinson called his clients — some of whom he'd served for the duration of his 13-year driving tenure — to give them the news,

packed up and went home. Shortly after, he filed for unemployment and tried to figure out what to do next.

Robinson considered going back to school instead of returning to 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. driving shifts, but the entire process

was overwhelming. He had not had a resume in 30 years.

"You didn't used to need a resume to get a job," Robinson said.

The biggest impact in Louisiana was felt in

Alexandria, where 200 people lost their jobs at Cotton Brothers/Holsum

Bakery.

Hostess' liquidation caused the layoffs of more than 18,000

workers nationwide, leaving employees like Robinson without severance

pay or pay for accrued vacation days.

"They threw us to the wolves," Robinson said. "That's so discouraging that the people that are still working there are still

going to be paid and getting bonuses."

About 3,200 Hostess employees nationwide are being retained to help in winding down operations, including 237 employees at

the corporate level, and $1.8 million will be paid out to 19 executives.

Holsum had more than two dozen retail

locations in Louisiana, including those in Lafayette, Opelousas and New

Iberia. Three

days after Hostess announced its liquidation, the Holsum Outlet

store on Bertrand Drive was packed with Wonder Bread and snack

food lovers looking to stock up on their favorite items. At the

time, it was unclear whether the brands would continue.

The store shuttered that week and it is

unclear whether it will reopen if new owners purchase Hostess Brands

Inc. Holsum did

not respond to requests for comment. Last month, Hostess said in

court that it's in talks with 110 potential buyers for its

brands, which include Twinkies, Sno Balls, CupCakes, Ding Dongs

and Ho Hos.