‘We won’t back down!’

August 6, 2022


On April 30, 2022, while Berk­shire Hathaway shareholders sat in comfort and national cable-news networks dei­fied wealth hoarder Warren Buffett and his executive cronies at the company’s live-streamed annual meeting, BNSF railroad workers, as always, were out in the elements doing the hard work — this time, protesting against BNSF’s anti-worker “Hi-Viz” attendance policy. (Buffet is the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which acquired BNSF in 2009.)

Protesters gathered in the early-morning hours — some as early as 4 a.m., when parking garages opened — and split up evenly to protest in five different areas outside of the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb., where the meeting took place. Doors opened to share­holders at 7 a.m., and the picketers wanted to be outside as the attendees arrived. They were joined by two LED video billboard trucks slamming Buffett, BNSF CEO Katie Farmer and Hi-Viz.

“We want change and won’t be going away or backing down.”

Carrying signs that read “They use us and abuse us,” “Fair wages, fair treatment” and “Railroaders’ lives matter,” members of the SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), their respective auxiliaries and other members of rail labor mobilized in the rain outside CHI Health Center, bringing the voice of working people to the so-called “Woodstock for Capitalists.”

“We had a great turnout despite the weather. We were able to cross paths with I’d say around 90% of the participants that were walking into the building,” SMART TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity said of the approximately 60 protesters present.

“The crowd was fired up — it was divide and conquer. A very lively crowd,” said Vice President Chad Adams, who joined in the two-hour protest.

Also mobilizing our members were General Chairpersons Mike LaPresta (GO 001); Scott Swiatek (GO 009); and Luke Edington (GO 953).

“It was great seeing spouses and family involved in today’s protest, showing their support,” TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller said. “We want change and won’t be going away or backing down.”

Cassity echoed this sentiment: “It was great to see labor standing in solidarity, members shoulder-to-shoulder and fighting for what’s right for the membership. We’re taking the fight to the railroads, and we’re not going to back down. The shareholders that were present at the meeting were there discussing the progress that they have made off of the backs of our members, and it’s important that they understand that we won’t back down and we won’t go away until the right thing has been done.”

According to the Informational Protest — Omaha NE 2022 Facebook page, the picketers regrouped later that afternoon and were joined by more supporters who could not make the morning session; another display of continuing solidarity.

Adams said that the April 30th movement is just the beginning.

“The group was talking about getting back together at the UP shareholders meeting next month — one thing builds another, just keep the pressure on and that’s what we can do,” he said.