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Jobs protesters stage rally at Altmire's office

| Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

The group outside U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire's office weren't the Village People but what they sang had a familiar melody, if unfamiliar lyrics.

"What we need are good J-O-B-S ..." they sang, mostly on key, to the tune of "Y.M.C.A." by the Village People, as traffic whizzed by on Freeport Road in Harrison. They displayed signs echoing that sentiment.

The 30 protesters, most of whom are union employees of nearby Allegheny Valley Hospital, staged the demonstration in conjunction with the American Dream Movement. It is a coalition of community, religious and labor groups that is holding rallies throughout the country to put the focus back on creating jobs and holding politicians accountable for their votes. Pointing to a Valley News Dispatch headline about unemployment hitting 7 percent in the state, Cathy Olschefsky of Harrison said, "This is a sin. There is no need for this."

Asked what more she thought Altmire, a Democrat representing the 4th Congressional District, could do, Olschefsky, a housekeeper at AVH, broadened her response to include all of Congress.

"How about just sitting down and talking like adults for a change?" she said.

As for Altmire specifically, Olschefsky said, "He can go back to Congress and tell them what we had to say." "Take our comments to Congress," said Veronica Rempuszewski, an AVH nurse from New Kensington. "We elected him, we need him to speak for us, to stand up for us."

Patrick Diguilio of Kittanning, another nurse at AVH, was asked what he thought such demonstrations accomplish.

"It shows that America is paying attention more so than ever," he replied.

Diguilio added, "They (Congress) need to stop their political in-fighting and come up with some real solutions. The longer they take, the more the country is suffering."

As for what he wanted Altmire to do, Diguilio said, "Be a stand-up leader and come up with workable solutions for our country."

Altmire was not in his Harrison office but was in the district, according to aide Beth Newman. She accepted comment forms from the protesters to fax to Altmire's office in Washington, as well as a large, symbolic "job application" from the group.

Attempts to reach Altmire for comment through his press aide, Richard Carbo, were unsuccessful.

The demonstration began with the Rev. Ron Wanless, pastor of the Croton United Methodist Church in New Castle, addressing the demonstrators through a bullhorn. New Castle is included in Altmire's congressional district.

While most of the demonstrators and Wanless said Democrats and Republicans will be held accountable, Wanless seemed to zero in on congressional Republicans in referring to politicians "writing evil legislation to destroy your unions and deny you jobs" and criticizing those who oppose making the wealthy and corporations pay more in taxes.

"It will be hell to pay," Wanless said, "if we don't change our ways and make government for all the people, not just the rich."

That prompted a bystander, Harrison resident Matt Shaffer, to comment to Wanless that he seemed to be singling out Republicans. Shaffer, who said he is an independent voter, asked why Wanless didn't single out Democrats, claiming that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has $32 million in the bank.

Wanless replied that his criticism was aimed at all those who oppose the rich paying their fair share in taxes.

"Fifty percent of the people in this country don't pay taxes," Shaffer said. "Doesn't that concern you?"

"It doesn't if they are poor. It does if they are rich," Wanless replied as the demonstrators cheered.

"The truth is that working people are the heart of this nation," Wanless said. "Let's get that heart beating full time."

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