Berkshire Hathaway Inc

Stock Symbols
NYSE
:
BRK.A
NYSE
:
BRK.B
company headquarters
USA
ISSUES

A US-based conglomerate holding company and investment firm. Its subsidiary Shaw Industries uses prison labor. Other subsidiaries provide equipment, utilities, and uniforms to prisons and jails.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is a U.S.-based holding company and investment management firm headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. It has over 60 wholly-owned subsidiaries, and a minority stake in dozens of other companies, operating in the insurance, railroad, utilities and energy, industrial, building, apparel, and service and retail business sectors. The company's subsidiaries include some well-known companies, such as Benjamin Moore, Dairy Queen, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, Jordan's Furniture, and Pampered Chef. As of 2020, Berkshire Hathaway employed approximately 360,000 people worldwide and reported an annual revenue of $245 million.

Shaw Industries Group, a Georgia-based Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that makes and distributes carpet and flooring products, uses prison labor. The company operates five hardwood flooring factories inside prisons in South Carolina and Tennessee. These factories were formerly operated by another company, Anderson Hardwood Floors, which Shaw Industries acquired in 2007.

Shaw Industries' prison labor programs operate under the guidelines of the federal Prison Industries Enhancement Program (PIECP), which means that the company can sell its prison-made products anywhere in the U.S. Shaw Industries sells its products through retail stores, such as Costco and The Home Depot. While the U.S. Department of Justice claims that PIE-certified prison labor programs do not "displace employed workers in the community," Shaw Industries reportedly fired 120 employees who worked in a South Carolina factory and replaced them using prison labor around 2019.

Shaw Industries also violated Canadian trade laws by shipping its prison-made products to Canada. In 2012, after 15 years of selling Anderson Hardwood Floors' prison-made flooring in Canada, and five years after Berkshire Hathaway acquired Anderson, the company stated that it only "recently learned that [its] importing into Canada of goods that are manufactured utilizing prison labor is prohibited by Canadian law." Shaw Industries may have also violated U.S. law by not clearly labeling the products it exported as made in prisons. The company did not respond to allegations that it violated U.S. law, but stopped "all shipments of product with any [Anderson Harwood Prison Industries Program] content into Canada."

Other Berkshire Hathaway companies provide U.S. prisons and jails with furnishings, equipment, and utilities, according to Worth Rises' 2020 database, The Prison Industry: Mapping Private Sector Players. For example, foodservice equipment company Marmon Link (formerly 3Wire), and agricultural systems manufacturer CTB, held contracts with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice between 2012 and 2018. A third subsidiary, electric and gas provider MidAmerican Energy Company, held contracts with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for electric utilities from 2015 to 2018.

GEICO, a Berkshire Hathaway-owned auto insurance company based in Maryland, sponsored the American Probation and Parole Association in 2017 and 2019. According to the organization, it invites corporations "with an interest in the field of probation, parole, and community corrections" to become members.

Another Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, Flechheimer Brothers, makes uniforms for the U.S. military, state and federal law enforcement, and prison agencies. The company's Flying Cross and Vertx brands make uniforms that are used by numerous law enforcement agencies, for example, for police officers in Chicago, San Diego, and Minneapolis and for the prison guards of Ohio. Fechheimer Brothers also has a partnership with Safariland, another law enforcement and military apparel and equipment company, which used to provide tear gas grenades to U.S. law enforcement agencies and the Israeli military.

This profile was last updated on
3 September 2021