Job Fair for Hostess Workers

Dillon Christensen stood in line with his 2-month-old daughter Kamryn at Thursday’s job fair for displaced Hostess workers.

“I tried to find a baby sitter, but couldn’t,” said Christensen, 19, from South Ogden. “My wife went back to work from her maternity leave, so I hope we will be OK for a while. I figure we can last at least 2 months, but it sure makes it harder to pay the bills.”

Christensen was one of about 600 workers — half in Ogden and half in Salt Lake City — who lost their jobs Nov. 16, when word came that the company could not resolve strike issues and would liquidate.

The job fair, hosted by Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College, drew about 150 former Hostess workers looking for new jobs, while a dozen or more potential employers collected resumes and described the limited positions available.

Christensen had worked for nine months near the end of the bakery production line, as a sponge mixer and bread tailer. The job he lost paid about $11.75 an hour, he said.

“It’s going to make Christmas a lot harder,” Christensen said, carrying his sleeping infant in a carrier with a colorful, whimsical cover. “Everyone has already hired the workers they need for the holiday season. Finding a job now would be nice.”

Jayne DeMarco, who was accepting resumes for Lofthouse Cookies of Ogden, said she could empathize with the crowds of displaced workers.

“Years ago I relocated from New York to Utah for a job, and that company closed,” she said. “This happened to me. It’s very hard for these people, and this happened at a hard time of year.”

Other employers with booths included Kellogg’s, Federal Express, Smiths Marketplace, Costco, SOS and Manpower, Nicholas & Company bakery, Cookie Tree and the LDS Employment Agency. A Salvation Army worker pledged to include at least 75 job seekers’ gift requests on area Angel Trees.

Preston Williams, 44, had worked 23 years for Hostess.

“I heard the news at work,” the Ogden man said. “The television was on, and the news ran across the bottom of the screen. An hour later, corporate confirmed it. They told us to finish what we were doing and go home. I’m proud to say we all stayed, and we gave 100 percent to the end. I said my good-byes. We were a tight-knit group, with solid friendships.”

Williams had worked as a foreman, a production worker, in shipping and elsewhere, and is hoping to find a lead position with his next employer.

“I’ll tell you, I got more hugs than anything coming through the registration line,” Williams said. “It was great to see everyone. I don’t look at this as an end, I look at is as a new beginning.”

Steve Peterson, of Salt Lake City, made the drive north to attend the job fair.

“I was in driver sales,” said Peterson, 52, who spent nine years at Hostess. “They texted me on my route on the last day, and said, ‘Finish up, you’re done.’”

Peterson said his commercial driver’s license has been an asset. He landed a 30-day job driving for the post office, but hoped to find something more permanent.

“It’s a rough patch, but I will be all right,” he said. “There are a lot of great people here who deserve jobs, and I hope they will get them.”

Lori Russell, of Ogden, worked 18 years as an accounting clerk at Hostess’s Ogden location.

“It was a place where you went and stayed,” Russell said. “There are people in this line who have 30 years at Hostess. But this job fair was a great opportunity to come here and see each other.”

Russell said for her, the job fair felt kind of like a big family reunion.

“I only got to say goodbye to the office staff, everything happened so fast,” she said. “We in Ogden did not strike, and Salt Lake didn’t either. Our production staff worked extra hard to produce products for the bakeries in states that did go on strike. We wanted to keep our jobs.”

Russell said she has to support only herself, and she feels especially bad for the husbands and wives standing together in the job fair line.

Russell’s eyes moistened at the thought she might never see some of her work friends again.

“This is a chance to wish each other the best, and tell each other to be happy and have a good life. It’s just too bad it came to this.”

Original article by Nancy Van Valkenburg

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