In Response, Billionaire Investor Tells Senator He Will Make ‘No Recommendation’
BURLINGTON, Vt., Dec. 30 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week sent a letter to Warren Buffett, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway, asking him to intervene in support of 450 steelworkers in West Virginia on strike for a fair contract, wages, and health care at a company owned by the billionaire investor.
On strike for nearly 100 days, the workers at Special Metals in Huntington, West Virginia – a subsidiary of Precision Castparts which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway – produce critically important materials essential to space crafts and airplanes, including military jet engines and commercial aircrafts, as well as submarines and deep-sea oil rigs – making Special Metals’ Huntington facility the largest nickel alloy plant in the world.
“Today, I am personally requesting that you intervene in the negotiations between Steelworkers Local 40 and Precision Castparts to make sure that the workers are treated with dignity and respect and receive a fair contract that rewards the hard work and sacrifices they have made,” Sanders wrote to Buffett. “At a time when this company and Berkshire Hathaway are both doing very well, there is no reason why workers employed by you should be worrying about whether they will be able to feed their children or have health care. There is no reason why the standard of living of these hard working Americans should decline. I know that you and Berkshire Hathaway can do better than that.”
Buffett responded Wednesday to Sanders, saying in his own missive, “I’m passing along your letter to the CEO of Precision Castparts but making no recommendation to him as to any action. He is responsible for his business.”
Special Metals offered a 5-year contract that institutes a very significant cut in real pay when accounting for current inflation. Adding insult to injury, the company has also tried to make major cuts to accrued vacation time and employee health care, almost quadrupling the cost of health care for these workers by increasing the current monthly premium from $275 up to approximately $1,000.
Sanders reminded Buffett that the cuts in employee pay and health care are happening despite his own company doing incredibly well, noting that Buffett himself is worth $108 billion and Berkshire Hathaway is currently sitting on over $150 billion in cash. Buffett has famously pointed out that through tax loopholes he pays less in tax than his secretary.
The steelworkers strike comes amidst a wave of worker protests across industries and states, including at least 185 strikes at 255 locations in 2021. Sanders recently rallied in support of striking Kellogg’s workers in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Tennessee, led letters of support for Kellogg’s workers and more than 30,000 Kaiser health care workers, and stood in solidarity with workers at John Deere, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, Teamsters Hunts Point Market workers, GSOCUAW graduate workers at NYU, Churchill Downs, and more.