Led by a person portraying the Grim Reaper, a group of mostly union workers held a protest in the form of a funeral procession on Commerce Park Drive Thursday, mocking a federal legislator who they claim isn't voting on legislation to produce enough jobs.
The procession walked in the rain at a slow dirge and made its way to the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, shouting and acting rather peacefully, but issuing what they said was an urgent message to Marino.
The marchers' main contention is Marino, who was not present for the event, has not fulfilled campaign promises he made to the 10th Congressional District to bring quality paying jobs here.
A group of “unemployed, underemployed workers and community members” march down Commerce Park Drive to protest in front of U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Marino’s office on Thursday. The group claimed to be holding a funeral march to protest against the death of the middle class and lack of jobs in the state.
Marino's aides watched and took down notes to give to the congressman. They told the Sun-Gazette Marino was attending an event in Tunkhannock later that day and was unable to greet the group.
Steve Jones, one of the protesters, used a megaphone to amplify his voice.
The group, which consisted of members of various unions - including the United Home Care Workers of
Pennsylvania, Northeastern Pennsylvania Sheet Metal Workers International Association and a union representing heat and frost insulators and asbestos workers, said employment opportunities are few and far between.
"He needs to do what he promised," said Elizabeth Mosely, a city resident, who was employed as a teacher in Philadelphia but hasn't found work locally.
Mosely said her disillusionment about the lack of job opportunities will spread to the next generation.
"You are seeing young people staging riots in major cities," she said.
Leslie Haggerty, a city resident, was employed providing home care to the elderly but suffered an injury that required surgery and recuperation time. She lost her ability to work because she can't stand on her feet for long periods and has been searching for a job since.
"We want the congressman to understand our frustration," said Amelia Abromaitis, the lead organizer of the group.
Difficult economic times were part of the equation for Steve Simko, 63, of Pittston, an electrical engineer by trade, who said he is supporting his 88-year-old mother who has to undergo kidney dialysis.
"My brothers and sister and me are doing what we can, but we might have to sell our property that has been in the family for 150 years," he said.
Among the protesters were those claiming the only opportunities - other than working in the natural gas industry, health care or vehicle or equipment sales - are minimum-wage jobs.
"I understand their frustration about the lack of good-paying jobs because I agree with them," Marino said later in a prepared statement. "We do need to create jobs - not government jobs, but household-sustaining, private-sector jobs. That's why I continue to fight in Washington to cut government spending, downsize Washington, and to keep taxes low.is the only way we can stimulate the economy, and make it more attractive for companies to expand and invest."
Marino's aides assisted the protesters by taking down a few of their statements after they walked into the office. Marino is expected to be in Hughesville this morning to talk about a pharmacy bill.
"I respect their right to protest and their freedom of speech," he added. "We welcome them to our open house next week in Williamsport where we can have a nice conversation. I just ask them to leave the coffin at home."