RACINE - The eight protesters chanting and holding signs outside U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's office at 213 Sixth St. Tuesday morning said they don't want a lot from him. No miracles or acts of greatness. Just a chance to talk to Ryan, R-Wis., face to face and get some concrete answers on how he plans to create jobs with living wages within his 1st Congressional District.
Beginning on Thursday, protesters gathered outside Ryan's Kenosha office asking for the chance to speak with him. After three days there and with no contact from Ryan himself, some moved their efforts to the Racine office.
Ryan issued a press release Thursday saying that he appreciated the concerns of his constituents and invited them to call one of his offices in either Washington, D.C., or within his district, or to visit one of his First Congressional Mobile Offices, where Ryan's staffers will be on hand to discuss concerns with residents. He also said he would be available for telephone town hall meetings and would be attending area events.
Racine resident Maria Morales, who was recently laid off from her position as office coordinator for Voces de la Frontera, has been protesting at both offices since Thursday.
"We want to know that Ryan understands and acknowledges us," Morales, 68, said. "We need jobs, jobs with living wages. You can't survive with yourself and children on minimum wage; $7.25 an hour is impossible."
Each of the eight protesters outside the Racine office were unemployed. Some, like Morales, were recently let go, while others have been job hunting for months.
Diana Valencia, a Racine resident who was recently laid off from her position as coordinator for the GED/HSED program at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, has worked with job hunters in Racine for years. Although she will go back to her job in September, she said she's still coming out to protest.
"I see people all the time who lose their jobs, and at 45 or 55 when you've been doing the same job for 30 years, then what are you going to do?" Valencia said. "I'm here because someone has to be the inspiration. Someone has to find out from Ryan what he's going to do to help."
Wisconsin Jobs Now, a coalition of community groups working to bring jobs to Wisconsin, helped organize the Kenosha protest on Thursday, but communications coordinator Janet Veum said the protests have grown from just Kenosha to include Racine as well.
"It's just grown from there," Veum said. "People are just there, waiting. You know, Ryan hasn't called them or reached out to them, there hasn't been any contact from him other than form letters and a press release, and this is day four of the protests."