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Warren Buffett tells Bernie Sanders he won’t intervene in strike at Berkshire-owned company

Warren Buffett (R) talks with Mark Donegan, CEO of Precision Castparts, at the Precision Castparts booth in exhibit hall during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2016.
Ryan Henriksen | Reuters

Warren Buffett will not intervene in a steelworkers strike at a company owned by his firm Berkshire Hathaway, he told Sen. Bernie Sanders this week.

Sanders wrote to Buffett on Tuesday and asked the Berkshire CEO to get involved in talks between United Steelworkers Local 40 and West Virginia-based Special Metals. Precision Castparts, a subsidiary of Buffett’s conglomerate, owns Special Metals.

In a letter dated Tuesday and released by Sanders’ office on Thursday, Buffett told the Vermont independent he would not step into the labor negotiations. He cited Berkshire’s policy of letting its 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. “He is responsible for his business.”

About 450 Special Metals workers in Huntington, W.V. walked out on Oct. 1. Contract talks are set to drag into 2022 as workers try to stave off possible pay cuts and health-insurance cost hikes.

United Steelworkers Local 40 and Precision Castparts did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

In his letter to Buffett, Sanders asked him to “intervene” in the talks 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.”

“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,” the senator 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.”

Sanders, a labor advocate, has put his weight behind multiple strikes and union drives in recent years. Most recently, he rallied with striking Kellogg’s workers in Michigan this month.

Buffett, one of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S., has not been as frequent a target of Sanders’ ire as his peers including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

In his letter to Buffett, Sanders noted that the Berkshire CEO has “spoken out eloquently on the crisis our country now faces in terms of growing income and wealth inequality.”

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