Campaign finance data reveals thousands of dollars in campaign contributions over the last ten years from rail carrier political action committees (PACs) to the sole Democratic senator who voted against giving rail workers paid sick leave.
According to data from OpenSecrets.org, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has received at least $90,000 in campaign contributions from the nation's top railroad PACs, including those of BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and the Association of American Railroads since 2012.
Manchin was the only Democratic senator last week to vote against mandating seven days of paid sick leave. Manchin is by no means the only Democratic lawmaker to receive a payout from the rail PACs, nor do his payments constitute the largest campaign contributions from those groups. He was, however, the only Democratic holdout to side with rail carriers.
The bill had the backing of the rest of the Democratic caucus, as well as six GOP senators; Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., John Kennedy, R-La., Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. It won a majority of Senate support, 52-43, but failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to thwart a filibuster.
The measure to avert a strike by forcing a contract between rail companies and the 12 unions representing rail workers passed 80-15, without providing sick leave for workers.
This all happened the day after the House approved both paid sick leave and the rail union contract, which were split into two separate bills -- a strategy that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., defended on Twitter, saying that it was a request of local unions that both measures pass to give paid sick leave a fighting chance in the Senate.
Manchin signaled before the paid sick leave bill reached the floor that he would vote against it, telling CNN that he was reluctant "to jump in and set a precedent."
The strategy now by the rail unions, as reported by The Intercept, is to demand that Pres. Joe Biden include rail workers in an expected executive order mandating 56 hours of paid sick leave for federal contractors.
Manchin faced a ton of Twitter backlash for voting against paid sick leave for rail workers. One person said in a tweet, "Have the balls to tell us why we don't deserve sick days!!!!!!!!!!" Another tweet came from a woman who said her husband was forced to work with the flu because they couldn't take the financial hit of him missing a day of work without pay.
Rail workers are penalized for taking too many sick days without advance notice.
In a statement, Manchin said the rail contract that he voted to impose would provide a 24% raise to rail workers and additional personal time off. But safety and scheduling issues remain unresolved.
Biden has said he'll sign the rail contract into law as soon as it reaches his desk.