Bernie Sanders: Pay your workers better. Warren Buffett: It’s not my job


Senator Bernie Sanders has written a letter to the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, asking him to intervene in a strike by the United Steelworkers union at the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia. They have been on strike for three months. Special Metals is a unit of Precision Castparts, which is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire.

“At a time when this company and Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) are both doing very well, there is no reason that the workers you employ should worry about whether they will be able to feed their children or have health care, ”wrote Sanders. “There is no reason that the standard of living of these American workers should decline. I know you and Berkshire Hathaway can do better than that “,

His letter stated that employees were offered a contract with no raise in year one, only a signing bonus of $ 2,000, then salary increases of 1% in year two and 2% per annum for three years. following. He said the company wanted to increase the cost of health coverage for workers from $ 275 per month to $ 1,000. And that has reduced the vacation time they’ve already accumulated.

But Buffett responded with a letter citing Berkshire’s annual financial record with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which tells investors that the management of its various companies is left to executives with each grant – not Berkshire itself (or Buffett).

“Our companies individually deal with their own work and people decisions (with the exception of CEO selection),” he said in his response to Sanders, which was released by Sanders’ office. “I am sending your letter to the CEO of Precision Castparts, but I am not making any recommendations to him for any action. He is responsible for his business.”

Unlike many of the nation’s wealthiest people, Buffett has positioned himself as someone who cares about workers and income inequality. He called for an increase in taxes on the rich and pledged to donate most of his fortune, which now stands at just over $ 100 billion according to a billionaire real-time tracker from Forbes. Buffett does not have the anti-union reputation of many other billionaires, such as Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos or You’re here (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, both of whom have fought against organizing efforts.

Buffett’s letter to Sanders cites several examples of unionized subsidiaries of his company, including NetJets and See’s Candy. And Sanders’ letter plays on a call for Buffett to live up to his expressed concerns about income inequality.

“Mr. Buffett: You spoke eloquently about the crisis our country is currently facing in terms of growing income and wealth inequality. You correctly pointed out that while working families struggle, the richest 1% are doing extremely well, ”Sanders wrote.

The special metals strike

Special Metals makes nickel alloy metals essential for spaceships and airplanes. Berkshire bought Precision Castparts in 2016 for $ 37.2 billion. Berkshire reported that Precision Castparts reported third quarter revenue of $ 1.6 billion and that its third quarter profit was up $ 217 million from the third quarter of 2020, although it did not did not specify how much his profit for the quarter was. Berkshire said its overall revenue was $ 10.3 billion in the quarter and $ 50.1 billion in the first nine months of the year.

A video posted on the United Steelworkers union website cited strikers saying Special Metals has continued to operate, although it does not say whether it uses temporary workers, permanent replacement workers or paid staff to manage the job. ‘factory.

“If I were a customer there, I wouldn’t want something that I know to be produced because they don’t know what’s going on,” union member Steve Brumfield said in the union video.

The number of strikes has increased in recent months, with unions and rank-and-file members unwilling to accept concession contracts they have sometimes accepted in the past, especially in light of the record number of offers of Difficulty in the labor market and many employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill vacancies.

Precision Castparts communication department issued a statement saying its “desire is to establish a respectful and productive relationship with our employees, and we have ultimately achieved this in previous contract negotiations over many years.” He said he had and “will continue to negotiate in good faith” with the union. He did not answer questions about the reported the offer to the union or how it was able to function, and plans to continue functioning if the strike continues.


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