Those signing the letter to Manchin included: Ken Perdue, president of the state AFL-CIO; Samuel Hickman of the National Association of Social Workers; the Rev. Dennis Sparks, West Virginia Council of Churches director; Rick Wilson, American Friends Service Committee area director; and the Rev. Mel Hoover from Charleston's Unitarian Universalist Church.
The first vote cast by former Sen. Carte Goodwin, D-W.Va., was to extend unemployment benefits. As governor, Manchin appointed Goodwin to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., in July until the November election.
The National Employment Law Project published an analysis of potential problems if unemployment benefits are not restored, titled "Out in the Cold for the Holidays." (It is available at: http://nelp.3cdn.net/29d02a955ea0b43bbe_10m6b1blj.pdf.)
The holiday season, the NELP study pointed out, is "a time when the economy, especially the retail sector, is counting on consumer spending -- supported by unemployment benefits -- to maintain the recovery."
This year, benefits collected by nearly 9.5 million unemployed workers contributed $68 billion to our economy, according to the NELP report released in October.
Larry Matheney, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, worries "about workers who are at the mercy of a terrible economy.
"A lot of people are debating whether we should extend tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthiest. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says the major issue before Congress is to make sure Barack Obama is not re-elected.
"I think we will see wrangling, then some kind of a compromise between tax cuts for the wealthy and the unemployment issue," Matheney said.
Rahall said, "When you get to the tax-cut issue, I am willing to compromise. We will reach out in bipartisan fashion to ensure the working class gets the real tax cuts.
"But to deny unemployment benefits on the altar of cutting the deficit is cruel."
On Nov. 18, Democrats in the House tried to extend unemployment benefits during a "suspension of the rules," which required a two-thirds majority. The effort failed.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.