Bernie Sanders calls out Warren Buffett for getting richer as rail workers fight for better working conditions

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders said the "greed of the rail industry must end."Win McNamee/Getty Images
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  • Sen. Bernie Sanders took aim at Warren Buffett over the working conditions of US rail employees.

  • Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns BNSF Railway, which made a record $6 billion profit last year.

  • US rail workers are threatening to strike over a lack of paid sick leave and onerous scheduling.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has called out Warren Buffett for making billions of dollars, while rail employees are fighting for paid sick leave and better working conditions.

"Warren Buffett, the owner of BNSF Railway's parent company, became $1.38 billion richer yesterday," Sanders tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the boost to Buffett's net worth from Berkshire Hathaway stock closing higher on Tuesday.

"In one day, Mr. Buffett made twice as much money as it would cost to guarantee 15 paid sick days a year to every rail worker in America," the Vermont senator said. "The greed of the rail industry must end."

US railroads and rail unions have been at loggerheads this year over wages, onerous scheduling, a lack of sick pay, and staffing shortages.

The negotiations nearly ended with a strike in September, and some workers are threatening to walk out next month, which could disrupt the holiday season and deal a blow to the US economy.

Buffett is Berkshire's CEO and owns about 16% of the conglomerate, which counts scores of businesses including Geico, See's Candies, and the BNSF Railway among its subsidiaries.

Berkshire has a decentralized structure where most of its companies have their own CEOs and operate autonomously. That allows Buffett to focus on allocating capital between them and making other investments, instead of getting involved in their day-to-day operations.

Moreover, Buffett's wealth gains are a product of Berkshire's stock price. While the investor is worth $110 billion on paper, he famously lives a modest lifestyle, and has given more than half his Berkshire shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and his family's foundations since 2006.

Even so, Sanders has repeatedly urged Buffett to intervene at his railroad company. "He must ensure that rail workers receive decent wages and safe working conditions," the senator tweeted in September.

Buffett has called BNSF one of Berkshire's "four giants," along with its insurance business, its energy business, and its near-6% stake in Apple. In his annual letter this year, he touted BNSF as "the number one artery of American commerce, which makes it an indispensable asset for America as well as for Berkshire."

BNSF, which operates more than 32,000 miles of track in 28 states, employed about 35,000 people at the end of 2021, Berkshire's latest annual report shows. The railway generated about $23 billion of sales last year, or about 8% of Berkshire's total revenue, and earned a record $6 billion of net profits.

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Read the original article on Business Insider