Poor People's Campaign

Contact:  Martha Waggoner:  [email protected]

Poor and low-income people and faith leaders from West Virginia called out their senator, Joe Manchin, for insisting on cuts to the Build Back Better plan that will hurt them and the state during a rally Sunday sponsored by the  Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival..

“We are lifting our voices and we’ve got them nervous,” Pam Garrison, tri-chair of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign, said at the rally in Charleston. Speaking to Sen. Joe Manchin, she continued, “I am not a liberal, I am not a conservative, I am an American. If you are not for your country, for the people, then you’re against us. We are a mighty force. Together as one, we can move mountains.”

Some 710,000 of West Virginians — or 40% of the state population – are poor or low-income. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, Biden’s Build Back Better plan would create 17,290 new jobs.  But Manchin wants to cut the Build Back Better plan from $3.5 trillion over 10 years to $1.5 trillion, cutting 10,000 jobs from his own state.  

The IPS data also shows that Biden’s Build Back Better plan would benefit 121,000 veterans, provide paid medical and family leave for 88,050 West Virginia residents, and lift 23,000 West Virginia children out of poverty.

“The question is not how much will it cost if we do this, it’s how much will it cost if we don’t? Our best economics have taught us that investments in people are investments in democracy. A democracy is supposed to ensure the corporations are not treated like people, and people are not treated like things. … Why is it so hard, Sen. Manchin, to tell the truth and care?,” asked Bishop William J. Barber II DMin., co-chair of PPC:NCMR.. “Why put corporate favors over your conscience, senator? Why be a slave to the greedy rather than serve your people? Don’t you know you’re the senator from West Virginia and Mountaineers are supposed to always be free? Why not help your people?”

The PPC:NCMR also published full-page and digital ads in four West Virginia newspapers calling attention to how Sen. Manchin’s proposed cuts to the Build Back Better plan will harm West Virginians. The ads appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the Herald-Dispatch (Huntington), The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and the Journal (Martinsburg).

“We’ve heard today that West Virginia can’t take any more loss,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis co-chair of the PPC:NCMR. “This beautiful, this majestic state of West Virginia knows too much about being a canary in the coal mine. The more than 700,000 people who are poor and low-income people in a state so rich in resources, so rich in possibility, have too often been sacrificed on an altar of greed. If Sen. Manchin votes against the will of his own constituents…West Virginia will be hurt more than almost anywhere.” 

Comments from others who spoke:

Rabbi Joe Blair of Temple Israel in Charleston: 

“My faith requires that we raise up the downtrodden, the impoverished … it is our obligation as people of faith and as decent human beings to lift up and not to tear down. My tradition tells me that we are all made in the image of the divine. I am a citizen of this state and this nation and what is happening is not adequate. The consequences are devastating and destructive, hurting tens of thousands of people.”

Jean Evansmore, tri-chair, West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign 

“I am very disappointed and disgusted about what the person (Sen. Manchin) has done and continues to do, I am disgusted. .. It is totally immoral and wrong.” 

Rev. Roberta Smith, Black Ministerial Alliance

To Senators Capito and Manchin: “We voted both of you in. We didn’t send you there to say no. It took us to get you there, the corporations didn’t put you there, we put you there. So if you want to go back again, you better rethink yourself.” 

Mavery Davis, Community Organizer in Charleston

“Sen. Manchin said this bill was reckless. He said that we are reckless to want this type of advancement. I’m telling you right now, Joe, that 80% of West Virginians support this legislation. So what are you doing? Is it reckless to want 17,000 new jobs? Is it reckless to want universal Pre-K? Is it reckless to want an expanded child tax credit? NO! It is not reckless. What is reckless is serving corporations that pay into your political campaign…neglecting us, the people here that go to get up every day and watch our neighbors suffer everyday because you want to support your friends for a dollar…It’s the people that put you in office and we will vote  you out!”

India Frith, Black Voter Impact Initiative, 20 

When asked what she thinks of Sen. Manchin refusing to block voter suppression and the right to vote:

“This is very disturbing and absurd. (young people) want to be involved. We can’t take anymore losses. We’ve had too many losses. … “ 

Kaylen Barker, 33, a mother and low-wage worker: 

“According to Manchin, passing the Build Back Better plan will cause us to feel a sense of entitlement. … Is it entitlement to want better? We have been begging Manchin for help for years, long before we sent him to the Senate. But our cries have fallen on deaf ears. Manchin has abandoned the ppl of Wva in favor of his wealthy donors and corporate overlords for so long,  there is no question what side he is on. It is time for Manchin to give West Virginians what we have earned through over a century of blood, sweat, tears and lives. Dark money and yacht living have gone to your head, Sen. Manchin. The only one with a sense of entitlement is you.”

Stewart Acuff, environmental activist 

As long as there’s a mine working, it ought to be a union worker in that mine. But our vision goes further. We ought to build a new electric system. We ought to build wind turbines on every hill. We ought to quit doing work that poisons our people and start lifting people up! Every worker deserves a union and a living wage! We’re gonna beat Joe Manchin to get what the people of West Virginia need. We’re gonna beat Joe Manchin to get what the people of this country need.”

Rev. Caitlin Cotter Coillberg, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston

I’m talking to you today as a mountain mama, as a citizen of this wild and wonderful West Virginia. I’m talking to you as a pastor getting calls from people sobbing because they can’t pay their electric bills, can’t get childcare. It breaks your heart…this is about our survival.”

Rev. Matthew J. Watts, Grace Bible Church, Charleston

Rev. Watts said he got dental care as a teenager because President Johnson supported Aid to Families with Dependent Children. 

“Lyndon Baines Johnson believed in the people. Sen. Manchin and Capito: We need you to believe in the people of West Virginia and all over the country and to invest in the people.”

Father Lark Muncy, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Kermit, West Virginia 

“The wealthy seem to be doing just fine. No dinner off their table, no clothes off their back. Their children ain’t starving. We have to start telling our elected leaders to stop worrying about placating those on the opposite side, those who are still angry and are holding grudges because of an election that didn’t go their way. We need to fight for West Virginia. 

Pastor David Fryson, New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City, Charleston

Pastor Fryson said he got a college degree with the help of federal grants. 

“The corporations didn’t do that. The Chamber of Commerce did not do that. It was the federal government … that allowed me to go to school. And we owe it to the future because we had it in the past.”

Mark Thompson, radio host

“If they weren’t insurrectionists on Jan 6, they are insurrectionists today by denying the For the People Act, our voting rights, the George Floyd Act, Justice in Policing. And Joe Manchin, you are one of those filibusterers. You can’t be a filibusterer and a Mountaineer because Mountaineers are always free. But Mountaineers can’t be free as long as they’re denied the 17,290 new jobs that the Build Back Better plan would bring to Mountaineers. Mountaineers can’t be free if 346,000 of their children are denied the expanded child tax credit. Mountaineers can’t be free if the earned income tax credit isn’t expanded for the 110,000 workers without children. Mountaineers can’t be free without universal pre-K and child care. Mountaineers can’t be free unless there’s paid family medical leave for the 85,000 West Virginians that the Build Back Better plan would support. … Mountaineers can’t ever be free as long as you, Joe Manchin, are for sale.”