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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to striking workers

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to striking Kellogg's workers in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan, on December 17, 2021. (Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

'That's Just Wrong': Sanders Slams Buffett for Refusing to Side With Striking Steelworkers

The Vermont senator said a company owned by the mega-billionaire's massive holding conglomerate "should not be demanding wage cuts."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday slammed billionaire Warren Buffett for refusing to intervene on the side of West Virginia steelworkers who are striking to demand better pay and benefits from Precision Castparts, a company owned by Buffett's multinational holding conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

"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 healthcare benefits," Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter. "That's just wrong."

"To add insult to injury, the company also wants to make major cuts in employee healthcare."

Sanders' tweet came after he sent a letter Tuesday urging Buffett—one of the richest people in the world—to get involved in negotiations between Precision Castparts and United Steelworkers Local 40 to ensure striking employees are "treated with dignity and respect and receive a fair contract that rewards the hard work and sacrifices they have made."

Buffett promptly rejected Sanders' appeal in a terse letter—but promised he would forward the senator's message to Precision Castparts' millionaire CEO Mark Donegan.

"He is responsible for his business," Buffett wrote.

Roughly 450 steelworkers at Special Metals—a Huntington, West Virginia subsidiary of Precision Castparts—walked off the job on October 1 after management proposed a massive increase in healthcare premiums as well as cuts to overtime pay and vacation days. The steelworkers' strike has received less national attention than other recent labor actions, such as those of John Deere and Kellogg's employees.

In his letter to Buffett on Wednesday, Sanders argued the small wage raises that Precision Castparts has offered in contract negotiations thus far wouldn't even keep up with inflation, meaning workers would actually see "a very significant cut in real pay."

"To add insult to injury, the company also wants to make major cuts in employee healthcare," Sanders wrote. "It would almost quadruple the cost of healthcare for these workers, taking a current monthly premium from $275 up to approximately $1,000. The contract offer would force these workers into high-deductible plans that aren't worth the paper they're written on."

The Vermont senator went on to note that Buffett has in the past "correctly pointed out that, while working families struggle, the top one percent is doing extremely well." In advocating a higher tax rate on the ultra-wealthy, Buffett—whose net worth is over $100 billion—has famously lamented that he pays a lower rate than his secretary.

"At a time when [Precision Castparts] 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 healthcare," Sanders wrote Wednesday. "There is no reason why the standard of living of these hardworking Americans should decline. I know that you and Berkshire Hathaway can do better than that."

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