"We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," said Gregory F. Rayburn, chief executive officer. "Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders."
Hostess said it will seek bankruptcy court permission to close its business and sell its assets, "including its iconic brands and facilities. Bakery operations have been suspended at all plants."
"The Board of Directors authorized the wind down of Hostess Brands to preserve and maximize the value of the estate after one of the Company's largest unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), initiated a nationwide strike that crippled the Company's ability to produce and deliver products at multiple facilities," the company said in a statement.
"We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike," Rayburn said in a statement Wednesday. "Therefore, if sufficient employees do not return to work by 5 p.m., EST, on Thursday to restore normal operations, we will be forced to immediately move to liquidate the entire company, which will result in the loss of nearly 18,000 jobs."
A 5 p.m. deadline came and went without workers returning yesterday.
The strikes began on Nov. 9, when the company imposed a contract that would cut workers' wages by 8 percent. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) said the contract would also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.
Hostess, which is privately owned by two hedge funds, has struggled in recent years with two bankruptcy filings. The company said it "has done everything in its power to pursue a reorganization of its business as a going concern, including spending the better part of 18 months negotiating with its key constituents to obtain a consensual agreement."
"It is now up to Hostess' BCTGM-represented employees and Frank Hurt, their international president, to decide if they want to call off the strike and save this company, or cause massive financial harm to thousands of employees and their families," Rayburn said.
If the strike continues, Hostess said it will file a motion on Friday to wind-down the company and sell all of its assets. If the U.S. Bankruptcy Court grants the motion, the company will then begin to close all of its operations as early as Nov. 20.
"Hostess Brands is making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years," union president Hurt said in a statement earlier this week. "Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements."
The union, which represents more than 80,000 industry workers, maintains that the company's policies will bring its members back to workplace standards of the 1950s.
The wind down means the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores throughout the United States, the company said.
ABC News' David Wright and Alex Stone contributed to this report.