Unions, activists want Dems to fight back on immigrants’ behalf Credit: (Photo courtesy of JanaShea via iStock

The U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of 2020 might look at the Manchin of 2021 differently. The former voted for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The latter is fighting against legislation that would improve the state he represents with allegations of corporate bribery.

At the last minute, and after much negotiation, the senator declared that he wouldn’t vote for U.S. President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill, which addresses issues like infrastructure, child tax credit payments, universal pre-K, clean energy and health insurance for low-income citizens. In a statement, Manchin (D-W Va.) laid out his reasons for not supporting the bill.

“The American people deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act,” said Manchin. “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined the cost is upwards of $4.5 trillion which is more than double what the bill’s ardent supporters have claimed. They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill.” As the Omicron variant spreads throughout communities across the country, we are seeing COVID-19 cases rise at rates we have not seen since the height of this pandemic. 

While the bill addresses what’s happening inside the country, Manchin focused on alleged threats from the outside.

“We are also facing increasing geopolitical uncertainty as tensions rise with both Russia and China,” he continued. “Our ability to quickly and effectively respond to these pending threats would be drastically hindered by our rising debt.”

The news is another blow to Biden’s BBB bill where Manchin asks for concessions and scale backs only to ask for more when the Senate was on the brink of voting. 

Manchin, along with U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), has obstructed Democrat’s efforts to produce a bill that the party believes will benefit Americans the most. Two big elements of the bill involve clean energy and taxes.

Sinema’s seen significant financial contributions from conservatives and right-leaning finance companies for her opposition to an increase in taxes (personal and corporate). Manchin helped shrink BBB over its desire to address climate change. Both senators have received donations from pharmaceutical companies looking to fight changes to Medicare and fossil fuel companies to fight against clean energy.

According to a September study by the non-partisan Analyst Group, a Clean Electricity Payment Program, which is part of the BBB, could contribute more than $9 billion to the economy and provide close to 8 million jobs by the end of 2031. 

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued a statement telling Manchin how much BBB would help the union and bring back jobs to unemployed coal miners.

“The Build Back Better legislation includes several items that we believe are important for our members and their communities––some of which are part of the UMWA’s Principles for Energy Transition we laid out last spring,” said Roberts. “The bill includes language that would extend the current fee paid by coal companies to fund benefits received by victims of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung. But now that fee will be cut in half, further shifting the burden of paying these benefits away from the coal companies and on to taxpayers.”

“The bill includes language that would, for the first time, financially penalize outlaw employers that deny workers their rights to form a union on the job,” Roberts continued. “We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.”

Manchin’s actions contradict his overall AFL-CIO score in 2020 of 80%, an average senate democrat 96%, and a lifetime score of 84%.

According to CNN: Manchin, according to his latest financial disclosure, has holdings valued at between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems, Inc., a coal brokerage business he founded. He made almost a half-million dollars from those holdings in 2020.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said Manchin’s position on the Build Back Better Act betrays his own constituents. 

“The critical relief the Act would provide on the cost of health and child care has been repeatedly noted, but just as importantly, this legislation preserves the strained Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides benefits to thousands of coal miners who suffer from the disease; contains groundbreaking labor enforcement provisions guaranteeing workers’ basic right to organize and bargain collectively by applying civil monetary penalties on employers that commit serious unfair labor practices (provisions from the PRO Act, of which Senator Manchin is a co-sponsor); creates and improves jobs for home care workers, while expanding access to affordable home and community care for seniors and those disabled; and includes Sen. Manchin’s ‘American Jobs in Energy Manufacturing Act,’ which will invest $4 billion in coal communities to attract manufacturing companies that will provide good-paying, union jobs,” stated Sword.

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