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Buffett rejects Bernie Sanders’ call to intervene in strike | Agriculture

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several hundred putting employees at a producing facility owned by Berkshire Hathaway have picked up some high-profile help from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, however the firm’s CEO, Warren Buffett, has declined to become involved in the contract dispute.

Sanders, who has been a longtime supporter of labor unions, despatched a letter to Buffett this week urging him to intervene in the dispute between Berkshire’s Precision Castparts unit and the United Steelworkers Local 40 union in West Virginia to ensure that employees get a good contract.

“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,” Sanders wrote to the billionaire. “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.”

The strike contains roughly 450 employees who’ve been on the picket line exterior the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia, since Oct. 1. The facility makes specialised alloys which might be used in army jet engines, business planes, spacecraft and different gear used in high-temperature, high-pressure environments.

There have already been numerous high-profile strikes throughout the nation this 12 months as a result of labor unions really feel emboldened to maintain out for extra amid the continuing employee shortages. Many manufacturing employees additionally really feel like they deserve substantial raises after retaining their crops working all through the coronavirus pandemic.

At Special Metals, the corporate has been providing solely a $2,000 signing bonus and modest raises in the later years of the contract that Sanders mentioned will not sustain with the present excessive inflation price. The firm additionally proposed greater than tripling the quantity that workers would pay for his or her medical insurance.

“When you have an extremely profitable, well-financed corporation owned by one of the wealthiest guys in the world, you know what, you should not be demanding wage cuts from your workers and cuts in their health care benefits. That’s just wrong,” Sanders mentioned in an interview Wednesday.

The Vermont Democrat and former presidential candidate has been working with unions throughout the nation this 12 months, and he even joined putting Kellogg’s cereal plant employees at a rally earlier this month earlier than they agreed on a brand new contract. Sanders mentioned employees at Berkshire’s 90-odd firms should not have to make main concessions this 12 months when the conglomerate reported a $10 billion revenue in its most-recent quarter.

Buffett has lengthy mentioned that he permits the businesses Berkshire owns to largely function independently as soon as he names their CEOs. Buffett focuses on discovering the most effective methods to make investments Berkshire’s roughly $150 billion in money whereas staying out of the day-to-day operations of the Omaha, Nebraska-based firm’s subsidiaries.

“Our companies deal individually with their own labor and personnel decisions (except for the selection of the CEO),” Buffett mentioned in a letter again to Sanders. “We have never purchased or sold a company because of its union or non-union status. Some of our companies have as many as a dozen unions; others have none.”

Berkshire Hathaway owns an eclectic combine of various companies, together with Geico insurance coverage, BNSF railroad, numerous main utilities, a number of giant producers alongside extra retail operations like Dairy Queen and See’s Candy.

Buffett didn’t reply Wednesday to questions from The Associated Press concerning the labor dispute. He instructed Sanders in his response that he would ahead the senator’s letter to the CEO of Precision Castparts in Portland, Oregon, however that he will not make any suggestions to him.

“He is responsible for his business,” Buffett mentioned concerning the head of the aviation elements producer.

Special Metals has held a number of negotiating periods with the union because the strike started, however to date they’ve been unable to attain an settlement. They are scheduled to return to the bargaining desk subsequent week.

Chad Thompson, president of the native union, mentioned employees aren’t anticipating to see important raises in this contract, however they need to hold onto the advantages they have already got and obtain raises comparable to what they’ve acquired in the previous.

“We’re willing to talk about paying a little more here and there or maybe not getting as much of a raise as what we usually get in contracts to try to offset that,” Thompson mentioned. “We’re willing to pay what we think is fair — what we can agree to as fair — but we just don’t think they’re there. We don’t think they’re even being in the ballpark of fair.”

Precision Castparts spokesman David Dugan mentioned the corporate is dedicated to reaching a good settlement by way of negotiations. During the strike, the corporate has been utilizing exterior employees to try to preserve the Special Metals plant working.

“Our desire is to achieve a respectful and productive relationship with our employees, and we have ultimately achieved that goal in previous contract negotiations over many years,” Dugan mentioned.

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