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Op-ed: Sen Manchin’s fight for West Virginia must continue

Immediately after Sen. Joe Manchin said, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” Senate leaders insisted they will revive the bill, change it if they must, and bring it up for a vote this year.

If and when they do, Senator Manchin should continue to fight for what’s right for West Virginia’s employers and workers. And what is right for West Virginia is to focus on actually building things, not just propping up political ideologies.

It is way past time to rebuild America’s critical infrastructure stronger and better than ever before. Builders, contractors and construction firms across West Virginia are ready to get to work doing just that. The members of the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Virginia were grateful to see Congress pass comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the Build Back Better Act remains a source of concern for our industry.

One uniquely onerous provision of the BBB that must be removed is a provision that would transform the National Labor Relations Act into a punitive law rather than a remedial law, which it has been since its inception and throughout its 86-year history. It arms the National Labor Relations Board with the power to levy fines against small and mid-sized employers – but never unions, notably – for vaguely defined unfair labor practices. The fines could range from $50,000 – $100,000 per violation and also could apply to individual officers and directors.

Compliance with new, vague laws would be a challenge for the many smaller businesses that do not have dedicated lawyers and human resources departments. These proposed fines are not the kind of policy that will help any business grow and prosper. Senator Manchin should insist that these fines be removed from the BBB Act or any other piece of legislation that contains them.

Looking at the bigger picture, the mood in Washington may seem largely divisive, but Congress has shown that both sides of the aisle can work together and invest in areas that will grow our economy. Passage of the transformational infrastructure bill demonstrates that, and ABCWV is ready to help rebuild America’s infrastructure. Let’s not make it harder for companies to remain in business by enacting punitive fines that have no place in legislation that purports to build America.

Additionally, Senator Manchin is looking beyond roads and bridges to find bipartisan support for thorny issues that have stumped politicians in the past. Right now, he’s taking the lead to tackle voting reform, an area where it’s been difficult to find common ground among Republicans and Democrats – and it’s working. Using the filibuster, Senator Manchin has found a bipartisan group of senators who are at the negotiating table discussing voting rights reforms that’ll benefit every American, talks that have support from fellow Democrats and Republican Party leadership alike.

It is concerning that President Biden and others are urging the U.S. Senate to change its rules to eliminate the filibuster, thereby making it easier for proposals like a federal takeover of all state election laws, these proposed new labor fines along with other strongly partisan proposals to pass the Senate.

I applaud Senator Manchin for standing up to the pressures of his party and respecting the full body of the Senate by opposing elimination of the filibuster. If others in Washington followed his example, the solutions will reveal themselves without needing to “go nuclear” as they say, and change the rules to suit temporary political goals.

Right now, the United States is at a pivotal point, and Congress simply has to pass legislation that will work for folks across the country. We cannot afford to let slim majorities use their power to approve legislation that is unpopular with half of the country. The filibuster is one of the last safeguards the American people have to protect them from poor policies and to ensure that only the best bills make it to the Oval Office.

Senator Manchin has made it clear he won’t cave to demands to scrap the 60-vote threshold – and we must stand with him as he protects the filibuster. Let’s cast aside what divides us and instead focus on what truly will build America.

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Bryan Hoylman is president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Virginia.

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