As business owners and elected officials celebrated the grand opening of Daniels Sharpsmart in Forks Township on Tuesday, several out-of-work Pennsylvanians were outside protesting, saying they want a meeting with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.
Toomey, who was set to attend the grand opening of the medical waste disposal company on Conroy Place, was not able to appear. Instead, Marta Gabriel, regional manager for Toomey, attended on his behalf.
The protesters said the senator has yet to schedule a meeting with them to discuss the ailing job market. They said they have appeared at several locations throughout the state in the past few weeks, including Toomey’s offices in South Whitehall and Easton.
But according to Gabriel, Toomey has several upcoming town hall meetings in the works. She did not provide specifics on when or where these meetings will be held.
“Why does he continues to meet with businesses and not the unemployed workers?” asked Jessica Walls-Lavelle of Harrisburg and part of the American Dream Coalition.
Walls-Lavelle, with about 10 other protesters -- including Easton Area Education Association President Kevin Deely -- held signs on Conroy Place hoping to get a face-to-face with the senator.
Walls-Lavelle said the group would like to meet with Toomey before the congressional recess ends on Sept. 5 (Labor Day).
Dan Haney, another protester, said he has not had a job since February. A resident of Philadelphia, Haney said although he’s been out of work for some time, he has been fortunate. But he would still like to have a job to help support his family.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Haney. “My wife has a job and health care.”
But Haney said a higher premium and co-pays for his wife's insurance coverage coupled with taxes on the unemployment compensation he receives have left him struggling.
Easton's Deely, meanwhile, said: “He [Toomey] has the time to come to this event, then he should have the time to come to this meeting. We’re losing teachers and jobs, too.”
Just recently, the Easton Area School District laid off 72 teachers due to budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year.
“We’re not protesting the creation of jobs here,” said Deely. “We’re trying to get Toomey to understand he has to start talking to his constituents instead of the wealthy 10 percent.”
Daniels Sharpsmart’s opening marked the creation of 50 positions for Forks Township.