“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality working people, with great courage, are standing together against corporate greed,” said Sanders. “Their struggle is our collective struggle.”
Just one day after calling on progressives to “stand up and fight back” in 2022, Sen. Bernie Sanders is scheduled to participate in a Wednesday night town hall discussion with Alabama coal miners, California bakers, and West Virginia steelworkers, all of whom are “on strike against corporate greed.”
Called “2022: The Year of Solidarity,” the event—set to start livestreaming at 8:00 pm ET—is meant to celebrate the “extraordinary courage and determination” of working people “taking on powerful companies, and winning,” the Vermont Independent’s office said in a statement.
Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has exposed and exacerbated glaring inequalities throughout society—exemplified, for instance, by the fact that about 750 billionaires in the U.S. added $1 trillion to their combined net worth last year—”working people, with great courage, are standing together against corporate greed,” Sanders said late Tuesday night on social media.
“Their struggle is our collective struggle,” the democratic socialist added, stressing the need for working-class solidarity.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s event, Sanders highlighted three key battles that labor is currently waging against capital.
Since April, roughly 1,100 workers at Warrior Met Coal—often forced to work as many as seven days a week and up to 16 hours per day—have been on strike in Brookwood, Alabama, as Common Dreams has reported.
As Sanders’ office explained:
In 2016, under great pressure to keep the company afloat and keep jobs in their community, these coal miners agreed to a $6-an-hour pay cut—more than 20% of their average salary—and a substantial reduction in their healthcare and retirement benefits as part of a restructuring deal made by Wall Street vulture funds like Blackstone and Apollo. Meanwhile, the executives at Warrior Met and their Wall Street investors made out like bandits. Since 2017, Warrior Met has rewarded $1.4 billion in dividends to its wealthy shareholders while handing out bonuses of up to $35,000 to its executives. Yet, while the company has returned to profitability, Warrior Met has offered its workers a measly $1.50 raise over 5 years and has refused to restore the healthcare and pension benefits that were taken away.
“In Santa Fe Springs, California,” the progressive lawmaker’s office pointed out, “about 100 bakery workers, who make cakes for Baskin Robbins, Safeway, and Cold Stone Creamery, are on strike against the appropriately named Rich Products Corporation at the Jon Donaire Desserts production plant.”
According to Sanders’ team:
About 75% of these employees are Latina women who are often forced into mandatory overtime with little to no notice and sometimes work up to 16 hours a day. This is a company that made $4 billion in revenue last year. During the pandemic, Bob Rich, the majority owner of Rich Products, increased his wealth by more than $2 billion. While the workers he employs barely make more than California’s minimum wage, Mr. Rich currently has a net worth of more than $7.5 billion. Yet, despite his billions in wealth, the “best and final offer” Mr. Rich has put on the table for his workers is an insulting $1-an-hour wage increase.
And in Huntington, West Virginia, about 450 steelworkers at Special Metals—a subsidiary of Precision Castparts, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s multinational holding conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway—have been engaged in a major strike for more than three months.
“Buffett, of course, is one of the richest people in the world, with wealth of over $109 billion,” said Sanders’ office. “While Special Metals made $1.5 billion in profits last year and Mr. Buffett became over $40 billion richer during the pandemic, executives at this company offered workers an outrageous and insulting contract that includes a zero pay increase for this year, and a totally unacceptable 1% pay raise next year, while quadrupling healthcare premiums and reducing vacation time.”
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders slammed Buffett—who famously told the New York Times in 2006 that “there’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning”—for refusing to side with workers at Special Metals.
“Let’s be clear,” Sanders tweeted Tuesday. “Class warfare in this country is intensifying. The ruling class is united, and they are united in greed.”
“No one individual is going to save us,” he said. “We must rise up together. Our greatest weapon in these times is our solidarity.”