Source: West Virginia Metro News
MARMET, W.Va. — Before the Labor Day parade in Marmet began Monday morning, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stood beside local union members and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts for a photo.
After the photos were taken, Manchin talked to a handful of people about the importance of protecting the federal health care law as well as pensions for union members.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
Manchin is in the midst of a challenging reelection campaign; political analysts consider the contest between the senator and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to be a toss-up or leans Democrat, although polling has favored Manchin.
While Morrisey spent much of Monday campaigning in the Eastern Panhandle, Manchin was in Marmet for the parade and Racine in Boone County in the afternoon for the UMWA District 17’s annual picnic.
“I need your help,” Manchin told the crowd. “This is not a West Virginia race; this is a national race. They’re spending millions of dollars from all over the country against me. I understand that. They just don’t care at all. They don’t know who we are, and they’re not going to wait to find out.”
For Roberts and the UMWA, the Senate race in West Virginia is a top priority.
“Joe Manchin has been a champion of our pension legislation, along with (Republican Sen.) Shelley Moore Capito and a handful of others,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Joe Manchin, there would be thousands of West Virginians without health care today.”
Congress approved a resolution in May 2017 that included a permanent solution for funding health care for coal miners, including more than 22,000 coal miners in West Virginia. The chamber did not reach a solution for funding pensions.
Manchin is a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, who is responsible for finding a solution to fund pensions by the end of the year. Around 1.5 million Americans will be affected if lawmakers fail to act, including 86,000 coal miners..
“It’s slow-rolling, and it’s a shame,” Manchin said of the committee’s work. “Thank God we got health care. Took us three years. This is ridiculous.”
Roberts agreed the efforts have not been moving forward as quickly as it should.
“If there’s a big wave election in early November, I think many people will see the handwriting on the wall and try to come to some kind of compromise to try to protect these pensions for coal miners,” he said.
“Even if it doesn’t happen, I’m very confident the right thing will be done by Congress because of the lobbying we’ll do and the pressure that will be applied from these coalfield areas and across the United States to protect these pension plans.”
The UMWA endorsed Manchin in March, as well as U.S. Rep. David McKinley in the 1st Congressional District race and state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, in the 3rd District contest.
“You cannot keep electing people who don’t vote for you. You can’t,” Roberts told the crowd in Racine. “You vote for somebody that’s not for you, you vote for somebody that won’t vote for you, that’s stupidity. I’m sorry. I’m just sorry.”
“You send me a scab, and he’s going to be a scab when he gets there,” he added.
Ojeda, one of the leading figures of this year’s teachers’ strike, said his campaign centers on representing the working class and unions.
“What they’re trying to do is trying to silence the voice of the union, and unions are starting to wake up,” he said. “The teachers’ strike woke up people across America, and they realized we have the power if we stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side.”
Manchin touched on the teachers’ strike, thanking those who participated in the work stoppage.
“The first time in our lives we’ve ever seen school service personnel, educators and teachers and administrators come together with parents and grandparents to say enough is enough,” he said. “That’s what you did, and you started a national movement.”
Teachers in other states, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Arizona marched for increasing pay and benefits.
Ojeda said in Racine his Republican colleagues were startled by protests on the state Capitol steps, which non-education unions supported.
“They said, ‘Oh my. What have we done?’” he said.
The West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Manchin, as did the West Virginia Education Association and West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.
“We endorse candidates that believe in the same thing that we believe in,” said Christine Campbell, president of AFT-West Virginia.
“Regardless of party, if everybody believes that people should have affordable health care, a living wage and a secure pension, then those are the people we should be electing.”
Manchin said he is a senator who puts the state’s working people first.
“Who’s going to be there for you? Who’s going to fight for you? Who’s going to understand how we were raised? Who understands the hardships we have? Who’s going to speak up against this and income inequality?” the senator asked the crowd.
“The rich can’t even spend what they got. They’re looking for ways to give money away. I’ll tell you how to give it away: Make sure the person who’s working gets an honest wage. Make sure they get benefits.”
Campbell and Roberts said their organizations will have an active role in the election, including informing voters through canvassing efforts.
Morrisey said in February he opposed the work stoppage and would support legal methods to enforce the law to prevent the teachers’ strike from going forward. He also noted in a release at the time support for raises.
“That was from being from Jefferson County. We saw a lot of teachers migrate over into Loudon County (in Virginia) or over into Maryland. I’ve always thought West Virginia teachers should be paid more to be competitive with states we touch,” he said Monday in a telephone interview.
While labor has backed Manchin, Morrisey’s recent support has come from the business sector; the West Virginia Coal Association and the U.S Chamber of Commerce have announced endorsements for Morrisey.
“People know that we have to continue the progress that we’re making with our economy, and President Trump pushed an important tax bill through that Joe said no to,” the attorney general said. “Joe Manchin says no to West Virginia values. He said no to the Trump tax cuts. He said no to the opportunity zones that are going to be able to lift impoverished communities up.”
Manchin said it is Morrisey’s values that aren’t aligned with those of West Virginians.
“Everything Patrick does is about Washington, whether it’s lobbying for the large pharmaceuticals and large distributors who put all these pills in our state … strictly business model,” Manchin said.
Both the West Virginia Coal Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Manchin in past elections.
Manchin has voted in line with Trump’s agenda more than 60 percent of the time according to FiveThirtyEight, with noteworthy votes against efforts to repeal the federal health care law and the tax bill. Manchin said he is willing to work with anyone — including the president — but he does draw a line somewhere.
“He has to understand I work for the people of West Virginia. The only people I vote for 100 percent of the time is West Virginia,” he said. “That’s a 100 percent voting record for West Virginia.”
Written by: Alex Thomas