The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Martha Waggoner |

Message to Schumer and Manchin: Meet with Poor People, Hold Real Votes to Save Democracy

In letter to Schumer & Manchin, poor people & their allies say they ‘have the moral authority to help the Senate regain its honor and human decency’


Poor and low-income people and faith leaders from West Virginia and New York have written to their senators, requesting a meeting and saying they "hold the entire Senate responsible for this sinful refusal to act that is producing suffering."

The letter was sent Thursday, Feb. 3, to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin from the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. In it, poor people and their allies said it's time to pass the full $3 trillion Build Back Better plan - not the version reduced to $1.7 trillion - and full voting rights protections, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act and the For the People Act and not the ones amended by Sen. Manchin that failed.

It was sent on behalf of the people of West Virginia, especially its 710,000 poor and low-income residents, as well as the 140 million poor and low-income people across this nation.

The PPC:NCMR also held a news conference Thursday at the historic First Baptist Church in Charleston, West Virginia, where it released the letter on the 152nd anniversary of the 15th Amendment. That amendment guarantees that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude" and that "the Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

The letter and news conference are part of the lead up to the Mass Poor People's and Low-Wage Workers' Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls that will be held June 18th. This will be not just be a day of action but a declaration of an ongoing, committed moral movement.

The letter to Sens. Schumer and Manchin reads in part: "For more than a decade there has been a coordinated effort across the country to abridge the voting rights of Black, Latino, Native, and low-income white Americans. Despite 19 states enacting laws that do this in 2021, the Senate has failed to meet the moral urgency of the moment and pass federal voting rights protections."

The letter addresses the effect of the loss of the expanded child tax credit because of the failure to pass Build Back Better, saying that loss "will be devastating to tens of millions of poor and low-income households."

In West Virginia, the lack of the BBB means that 23,000 children will be pushed below the poverty line, 110,000 workers will not be able to make ends meet, and 10,000 jobs will be denied in the state. In addition, 441,852 Medicare beneficiaries will not be able to access expanded insurance in West Virginia alone, including retired miners who desperately need this health insurance.

As the letter says: "There is a way out. Impacted people from the hills of West Virginia and the neighborhoods of New York have the moral authority to help the Senate regain its honor and human decency."

At the news conference, speakers talked about how the Senate is failing the country by not passing BBB and not protecting voting rights.

Here are some of their comments:

Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the PPC:NCMR and president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach in Goldsboro, North Carolina:

"Manchin might say Build Back Better is dead, but the movement for economic justice is growing and building. One day he won't be a senator, but the people and the movement will always be here--and we will ultimately have justice.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the PPC:NCMR and director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice in New York City:

"I am a pastor, an organizer, preacher, scholar and mom. My kids go to public schools in New York that are in desperate need of resources. My friends don't have the healthcare or wages that they need. All of us are impacted by this attack on democracy."

Rev. Paul Dunn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston:

"A moral crime has been committed and continues to be inflicted on this state and our country by our sitting senator, Joe Manchin."

Bishop Lark Muncy, Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Kermit, West Virginia:

"[Manchin's refusal to support voting rights and Build Back Better] is detrimental to the needs of my people. ... We're tired of compromise with no change."

Stewart Acuff, retired organizing director with the AFL-CIO:

"The Bible is full of workers being treated with dignity and respect. Why is that so hard for Joe Manchin to do?" "

Pam Garrison, a chair of the West Virginia PPC:

West Virginia is "No. 1 for joining the military. They give their life, their limbs, their minds to protect our democracy. ... to defend our Constitution, the very thing every one of y'all swore to do. All we ask of you is a vote."

Jean Evansmore, a chair of the West Virginia PPC:

The child tax credit typically helps single mothers, who need the money to pay their bills: "Those of us know the term rob Peter to pay Paul. That is what they are doing -- do you pay the electric bill or buy food? Do you live in a hotel because your electricity is off and it is freezing? That is what the child tax credit has been able to do."

Eddie Burke, retired field director for the United Mine Workers and lead organizer of the Pittston Coal Strike:

On the BBB provisions for healthcare coverage for miners suffering from the horrible disease known as black lung: "It's a vital part of Build Back Better."

Adam Thiesen, a barista organizing a union of coffee workers in New York City:

"I pour coffee in a cafe where I cannot afford to eat. ... To the company, we're just a line in a budget. We deserve better."

Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City:

"Make no mistake about it, we are being beaten down-- by politics, by compromises, by fear, by timidity, by our leaders."

The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the Mass Poor People's Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.