Union Protests Before Berkshire Meeting

April 29, 2022, 4 p.m. ·

A BNSF train approaches Greenwood, Nebraska (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
A BNSF train approaches Greenwood, Nebraska (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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In advance of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Omaha Saturday, a union representing railroad engineers and trainmen is protesting how the Berkshire-owned Burlington Northern-Santa Fe treats its employees.

Dennis Pierce is national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which represents BNSF employees. Pierce says his members haven’t had a contract raise since 2019. He says they’re being offered raises in the range of 2 to 2.2 percent per year, while they’re seeking 6-10 percent raises to keep up with the rising cost of living. Meanwhile, he says, employment levels are down 20-30 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, contributing to supply chain issues, and people don’t want to go to work for the railroads because of the way they’re being treated.

“The treatment of the employees -- anyone who runs a business knows, and Warren Buffett here especially in Nebraska with some of the comments he’s made about how employees should be treated – we’re not sure he knows how the BNSF employees are being treated, Pierce said.

Buffett is Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman and CEO. Berkshire referred a request for comment to BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Spokesman Ben Wilemon provided a statement saying the company now has more train crew employees than a year ago, and a robust hiring plan for this year.

Regarding wages, the statement said “BNSF remains committed and eager to work toward a swift and fair resolution to the collective bargaining process. In anticipation of an agreement, BNSF continues to set aside funds for pay raises.”

“The sooner an agreement is reached, the sooner our union-represented employees get pay increases,” the company said.