Protesters Target Democratic Senator For Opposing $15 Minimum Wage
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill, on Monday, December 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers from both chambers released a $908 billion package Monday, split into two bills.(Photo by Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has reportedly been the subject of activists’ disapproval for opposing the attempt at making the $15 minimum wage part of the current Covid relief stimulus package.

Democrats technically have the majority in the Senate with it split 50-50 and a possible tie-breaking vote available from Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as President of the Senate.

According to Newsweek,

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said a $15 minimum wage would likely raise the wages of around 27 million workers but could also cost around 1.4 million workers their jobs as business owners cut back to account for paying their employees more. 

Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), have both confirmed that they are against including the minimum wage pay raise in the bill.

In an interview with Politico last week, Sinema said, “What’s important is whether or not [the minimum wage increase is] directly related to short-term Covid relief. And if it’s not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation…The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

The Democrats are planning to use a process called reconciliation to pass the bill with a simple majority, but the minimum wage proposal might not be allowed to be included. The Wall Street Journal reported that there have already been talks of creating a standalone bill for the minimum wage increase if it does not make it into the Covid relief package, although that type of bill would require sixty votes to pass.

On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters at the U.S. Capitol that “We’ve got millions of workers working for starvation wages. We’ve got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and that’s what the American people want and that’s what I intend to do.”

Many Republicans do not support a minimum wage increase due to their belief that it might harm small businesses in the middle of the pandemic. Businesses have suffered during the global health crisis and data released late last year details the extent of the effect.

Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report tracked temporary and permanent business closures over the course of the pandemic, reporting, “we’re seeing both permanent and temporary closures rise across the nation, with 60% of those closed businesses not reopening (97,966 permanently closed).” The data showed that temporary closures remained nearly the same, but from July to September, the permanent closures increased.

Senator Manchin has recently been the target of protestors who want to see the federal minimum wage increased.

Newsweek reported that The Poor People’s Campaign planned to hold a “socially-distanced rally outside the West Virginia Democrat’s state office, alongside an online rally, demanding that the next COVID-19 relief package increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.” Newsweek updated their report to explain that the in-person protest has been canceled and will now be online, according to the organizers.

The group’s Facebook page called on supporters to join the online rally:

“We’re used to a fight… We’ve got the fight in us. They call this a rescue package, but yet they want to take the most important part of the rescue out of it.” -Pam Garrison, West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

The group’s website also showed support for an Instagram post from Bernie Sanders where the Senator shared an image of his economic statistics, saying “We must get real relief for working families.”

The Poor People’s Campaign shared Sanders’ image on Facebook, adding,

“The #PoorPeoplesCampaign is encouraged that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is telling the painful truth that we have been raising for years – that there are 140 million poor & low income people in this country.

“Only when our lawmakers prioritize the 140 million & the interlocking injustices of: systemic racism, poverty, a war economy, ecological devastation & the distorted moral narrative of Christian Nationalism impacting +40% of the country, can we begin to heal this nation. When you lift from the bottom everybody rises!” -Shailly Gupta Barnes, Policy Director of the Kairos Center & the #PoorPeopleCampaign

Earlier this month, Senator Manchin was asked if he was supportive of a $15-per-hour minimum wage. He told The Hill, “No I’m not. I’m supportive of basically having something that’s responsible and reasonable.”

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