Hostess, the maker of Wonder Bread and the world-famous Twinkies snack cakes, is threatening to liquidate the entire company—and layoff 18,500 workers—after failing to reach a deal with its striking union. Hostess had issued an ultimatum this week, saying that if workers didn't return to their factories by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, management would head to bankruptcy court on Friday and ask a judge for permission to close all its factories and sell off all its assets. The deadline came and went with no new statements from either side, leaving workers anxiously waiting for a decision from the company. (See update below.)

The food maker filed for bankruptcy in January of this year and has spent the last 11 months trying to reorganize the business and restructure its agreements with workers. Most Hostess employees belong to either the Teamster's Union or the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM), which is holding fast against the company out of fear that too many concessions will lead other companies to gut wages and benefits everywhere. Hostess and the Teamsters have already reached a labor agreement, but BCTGM members went on strike last week, severely slowing production at 33 plants nationwide. The union says they've already taken severe pay cuts in the recent past and incompetent management is to blame for the company's troubles. Management says they can't survive a strike much longer and are willing to kill the whole Twinkie rather than keep fighting. 

That wouldn't necessarily spell the final end of the little yellow pill that has been indestructible for more than 80 years. Should the court allow a liquidation, another company could buy up the brand and the recipe and make them again. The same would be true for any of their threatened brands, which includes Ding Dongs; Ho-Hos; Hostess Fruit Pies; Dolly Madison (which makes Zingers and other snacks); Home Pride, Sunbeam, and Butternut breads; and Drake's Coffee Cakes; among many others.

Now that the bluff has been called we'll see if Hostess follows through, or some new owner comes to rescue. If not ... with Americans increasingly frowning upon delicious cream filled treats (and the economy still behaving badly) it could be a long time before we ever see the familiar snack again.

UPDATE 7:10 a.m. ET: CNBC reports that Hostess just announced they will follow through on their threat and are making plans to shut down all their factories and sell off their assets. Now we'll see what the union and the bankruptcy court says. The case is being is being heard in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, and the case number is 12-22052.