Like Twinkies? Thank a Machinist

YAKIMA – You’ve heard the urban legend about Twinkies, you know, that they’ve got a shelf life of seven years?

Truth is, a fresh-baked Twinkie – or Hostess Ding Dong or Ho-Ho or fruit pie – will go bad in a hurry if it’s in the back of a broken-down delivery truck in the middle of a scorching Eastern Washington summer, or freezing midwinter.

That’s what makes the work of Hostess Brands mechanic Dean Wohl so important. Wohl, who is a member of Machinists Local Lodge 1951, is the lone mechanic who maintains all the Hostess Brands delivery trucks east of the Cascades. His local lodge is affiliated with District Lodge 751 in Seattle.

Wohl’s profile is among the stories in the current issue of the Eastern Washington Machinists News, which is now available online.

It’s Wohl’s job to make sure the trucks run right, so that neither leaking coolant nor a burned-out headline in the dark of night prevents the Twinkies from getting out to stores from Airways Heights to Zillah.

Wohl has been with Hostess Brands – which was previously called Interstate Bakeries – for 16 years. He’s seen a lot of changes.

“In better economic times, when they were also delivering bread products, the company had two mechanics in Spokane, as well as employees in Ellensburg, Wentachee and Omak,” Wohl said.

But the company that emerged from a 2004 bankruptcy reorganization was much leaner, he said. “The products are now limited to Hostess cakes, so there are fewer trucks and less mechanics covering the same geographic territory.”

As a result, Wohl – who is based in Yakima – now is responsible for maintaining several dozen delivery trucks based in Yakima, Spokane and Moses Lake.

His approach to the job is simple, Wohl said: “I treat the fleet as if it were my own equipment.”

“I stay caught up on preventive maintenance,” he said. “I fix the most-urgent needs first and determine if something else can wait another day.”

And if a load of chocolaty Ding Dongs gets stuck alongside the road somewhere, Wohl moves quickly to get the truck back on the road before the product inside becomes a sweet brown mush.

“I’m not really on call 24/7, but if there’s a problem, it’s taken care of,” he said.

Also in this month’s Eastern Washington Machinists News, you’ll find:

  • An update on the contract talks coming up later this fall at aerospace supplier Pexco in Yakima;
  • A story about work District 751 Machinists do at the Hanford nuclear site;
  • A report on the contract ratified this summer by District 751 members at Central Pre-Mix in Spokane and Pasco;
  • A story about how Local Lodge 86 members in Spokane have supported the re-election campaign for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, Machinists District Lodge 751 now represents more than 25,000 working men and women at 42 employers across Washington and California, providing services through a network of local lodges that includes Local 86 in Spokane, Local 1123 in Wenatchee and Local 1951 in Richland.

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