Union-backed protesters show up at Republican Rep. Dave Reichert's Mercer Island office on Thursday.
Armed with signs demanding job creation and castigating US Rep. Dave Reichert (R WA-8 ) for supposedly catering to corporate interests, more than 200 people showed up to a protest this morning outside Reichert's Mercer Island office. The protest was organized by a coalition of progressive labor groups (SEIU, Working Washington, MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, as well as reps from Fuse WA, Center for Community Change, and Planned Parenthood) and re-enacted a Great Depression scene, complete with a makeshift soup kitchen, members dressed up as 1930's "newsies," and an unemployment line. (This Great Depression outside Reichert's office did take on a modern spin, however, with a flash mob and a breakdance performance.)
The high turnout, chants of "Good jobs now!" and cars honking in support made a commotion on the normally quiet suburban neighborhood. Members of the labor coalition shared stories of unemployment despite higher education credentials, and slammed Reichert for (what they perceived to be) rewarding corporations that outsource jobs instead of creating them domestically.
Michael Raekes, on the side of organized labor, reflected the crowd’s sentiments in explaining that he was there because “we need to put Americans to work”. He alleged that Reichert has been voting for “policies that have sent millions of manufacturing jobs to low wage countries like China and India.” Another protester, Deborah Osbourne, emphasized that "corporate wealth has been created", and "now it's time to create jobs."
(Reichert’s most recent vote on a key issue was to approve the debt deal, which liberals blasted for not ending Bush era corporate tax cuts.)
Protesters also complained about Reichert's lack of accessibility. Martha Sharp, a self-described “senior citizen living on Medicare and Social Security”, petitioned Reichert’s office for an on-the-spot meeting with the US rep but was turned away by staff, who told her to schedule an appointment. It was unclear if Reichert was present in the office, and no spokesperson came out to comment.
Across the street, a smaller group of 20 to 30 people from the Tea Party Patriots held a counter-protest. Waving signs criticizing Obama’s spending policies (a few wore t-shirts proclaiming “Obama Sucks”), the group expressed faith in the private sector to create jobs.
And Tea Partiers showed up to protest the protesters.
Accordingly, protesters on the Tea Party side had a different take on Reichert’s voting pattern. Member Dave Tegeler, had this to say: “The people across the street thinks jobs come from the government and they don’t. Cutting regulations, cutting spending, cutting interference with the private sector – [that’s how to create] the very jobs they want.” Thus, “in cutting Cap and Balance and in cutting spending”, the US rep “aligned himself with Tea Party Patriot goals.”
It’s also worthy to note that the local Tea Party Patriot members interviewed focused their scope of support for private sector jobs primarily on small businesses (few mentioned their views on corporations).
Ultimately, to some today’s protest is just the same story of America’s growing rift along party lines. However, too often lost in the mire of partisan clashes is this reminder, best captured by Woody Hertzog’s (state coordinator for the Tea Party group) debrief on the event: "I thought it was neat to see all of the Americans, regardless of their beliefs, out expressing their beliefs. This is one of the very few countries you can do that in, and that's special.”