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Six incidents reported at plant since strike began

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Columbus police say they’ve been called to the Dolly Madison plant on National Road six times since Friday for disturbances related to a strike against the maker of Twinkies. That includes an incident in which a metal socket was thrown through the rear window of a manager’s car.

Union employees, who object to planned cuts to pensions and reduced pay by owner Hostess Brands, have been picketing the Columbus plant as part of a national strike against the food company. Hostess is trying to restructure and cut costs as part of its court-sanctioned bankruptcy reorganization plan.

“We’re been called for disturbance-type things, harassment, threats as people cross the picket line,” Columbus police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.

There have been no arrests.

The socket-throwing episode occurred Saturday morning as a manager drove into the plant past picketers, Myers said.

“Basically, he was speaking with a group of strikers as he crossed the line in his vehicle. Someone threw a socket (from a wrench) and busted out the rear window,” Myers said. “No one was injured.”

There have been instances of nails scattered in the plant parking lot and someone setting off fireworks, Myers said, classifying the incidents as minor.

“You are getting a very small percentage of picketers causing an issue,” he added. “The bottom line is we’re going to respond up there and take appropriate action. We will make arrests and take people to jail, if that’s necessary.”

Myers said Columbus police have been in touch with Indiana State Police and that agency is poised to help if circumstances warrant it.

Hostess is trying to emerge from bankruptcy for the second time in a decade. The company is privately held and does not generally disclose sales and profit figures. But according to documents provided to union workers in Columbus, the company lost $330 million last year.

Members of Local 132 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, are manning the picket line here.

In early September, local Dolly Madison employees rejected a new contract proposal that called for wage cuts and changes to health and pension benefits. But a few weeks later a bankruptcy judge imposed the new Hostess contract on employees, saying there was no other option available to save the food manufacturer.

In response, bakery workers went on strike Friday evening. The company employs about 18,500 people nationally, including 200 in Columbus.

In response to the walkout, Hostess Brands announced Monday that it is closing bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati, eliminating 627 jobs.

The company has said a prolonged strike could mean the end of Hostess.

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