CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Advocates for a $15 minimum wage rallied outside a West Virginia state office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday, urging the moderate Democrat to support increasing the federal standard through Congress' next pandemic relief package.
The Poor People's Campaign led the demonstration with dozens of activists and minimum wage workers. It held rallies in the District of Columbia and nine states, including in West Virginia and Arizona, where senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema oppose a $15 minimum wage provision in the COVID-19 package.
“The people in this state that don't make $15, they are playing Russian roulette lottery with their lives. Many of them can't even go to the hospital," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
"It's time for that to be over. And Senator Manchin has the power in this moment to make it so,'' Barber added, speaking at the rally outside a towering state lottery building and across a sprawling hospital complex.
Activists held signs reading “end the subminimum wage now!”
Manchin met virtually with the Poor People’s Campaign and workers last week. Activists said afterward that Manchin told them he only backs an increase from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $11.
House Democrats have advanced a proposal that would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. But its future is uncertain in the Senate, where Manchin has the power as a critical swing vote to make or break proposals from his party’s progressive wing.
President Joe Biden supports a $15 minimum wage but has acknowledged that he will likely have to omit the measure from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 financial relief package he is proposing and reintroduce it later as a separate bill.