Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) evidently told colleagues in the Senate that he opposes universal paid sick time because he thinks workers would pretend to be sick in order to go on hunting trips – despite the fact that the country just hit a tragic milestone of 800,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
The news comes just after Manchin announced on “Fox News Sunday” that he is officially killing the Democrats’ reconciliation bill, which includes a proposal for universal paid sick leave along with critical provisions to expand the social safety net, lower prescription drug costs and address the climate crisis. Manchin is blocking the bill even though he had an enormously outsized hand in shaping it, negotiating with his Democratic colleagues and stonewalling them over the legislation for months.
While Manchin has publicly complained about the price of the reconciliation bill, his private gripes are targeted directly at poor and working class Americans, Huffpost reported.
Manchin has previously expressed his opposition to implementing universal paid leave by saying that the government should impose a work requirement on such measures. But by definition, having paid leave from a job requires a person to have a job to begin with.
The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers paid family and medical leave. Research finds that of the 25 percent of private industry workers with the lowest wages, over half aren’t even allowed unpaid sick leave; among the workers paid within the lowest 10 percent of wages, 70 percent don’t have unpaid sick leave. This forces some workers to go to work ill, potentially spreading the illness to coworkers and the public.
Even before the pandemic, it would be absurd to believe that workers don’t deserve paid sick leave because of the possibility that they may fake illness to get time off. For decades, conservatives have argued against every form of government assistance by claiming that a small portion of people may use the assistance for non-authorized reasons – but in reality, the benefits of these programs far outweigh the supposed negative impact of fraud.
The food stamp program, for instance, helps feed tens of millions of people across the country. Fraud happens so infrequently that it’s nearly completely negligible, and evidence-based criticisms of the program say that the program is actually not big enough.
Manchin’s statement is especially cruel in the midst of a pandemic that is currently killing an average of nearly 1,300 Americans a day. COVID is surging partially because many frontline workers don’t have the option to stay home even if they contract the virus – meaning that conditions are rapidly worsening just as people are gathering for the holidays.
According to HuffPost, Manchin has also complained about the possibility of Congress extending the child tax credit, a measure that has lifted millions of kids out of poverty since it was implemented. The lawmaker’s opposition to expanding the credit is based on his belief that poor families may spend the money on what he considers the wrong things; in other words, Manchin believes that he knows more about the needs of families who have been struggling to survive since the pandemic than the families themselves.
Meanwhile, the Senate just began winter recess this weekend and won’t reconvene until January 6, leaving Manchin – who is worth an estimated $7.6 million – with nearly three weeks of paid leave to do whatever he pleases.