Warren Buffett rejected a plea this week from Sen. Bernie Sanders to intervene on behalf of striking steelworkers employed at a West Virginia company owned by the billionaire’s investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway.
Sanders (I-Vt.) made the request amid an ongoing dispute between Berkshire-owned Precision Castparts and several hundred members of the United Steelworkers Local 40 union.
The workers — at Special Metals, an aviation parts plant owned by Precision Castparts — went on strike in October over issues such as health care and compensation.
But Buffett indicated to Sanders that he would not involve himself in the ongoing negotiations.
The billionaire noted a longstanding policy that Berkshire Hathaway’s companies “deal individually with their own labor and personnel decisions.
“I’m passing along your letter to the CEO of Precision Castparts but making no recommendation to him as to any action,” Buffett wrote in a letter to Sanders. “He is responsible for his business.”
Buffett asserted Berkshire has had extensive dealings with union employees and has “never purchased or sold a company because of its union or non-union status.”
In his letter to Buffett, Sanders called the latest contract offer from Precision Castparts “outrageous.” The Vermont senator argued proposed compensation included in the deal was insufficient given rising inflation and steep consumer prices.
“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.
“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,” he added.
Labor negotiations between the steelworkers and Precision Castparts are expected to resume next week.
“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,” a Precision Castparts spokesman told The Associated Press.
A prominent workers’ rights advocate, Sanders has repeatedly spoken out on behalf of striking employees during labor disputes. The former presidential candidate is also an outspoken critic of the wealthiest Americans, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk, arguing they should pay more in taxes.
Buffett is one of the world’s richest individuals, with a personal net worth of more than $109 billion, according to Forbes.