Perhaps it says something about America—though we’re not sure what—that iconic junk foods like Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Ho Hos snack cakes and Wonder bread have endured since the 1930s despite changing consumer health and eating habits. It does say something about institutions that can’t—or refuse to—adapt to new economic times that the company behind those products has chosen to go out of business overnight.

Hostess’s owners have decided to liquidate rather than ride out a nationwide strike by one of the largest of its dozen unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. The Texas-based company owned by the private-equity shop Ripplewood Holdings and other hedge funds essentially gave up. On Friday it shut down its 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers and prepared to fire nearly 18,500 employees en masse and auction off its brand and recipe portfolio.

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