AUGUSTA — Protesters who came to the Blaine House to demand an audience with Gov. Paul LePage got just what they asked for Saturday — a meeting with the governor.

About 50 people, many of them unemployed, marched down State Street carrying signs and chanting as part of a demonstration organized by the Maine People’s Alliance. The group organized the march in response to a comment LePage made a month ago about people who have turned down jobs because they can make more money collecting unemployment benefits.

“We have got to convince those who can work that we need to get them back to work,” LePage said at a meeting with business owners. “Quite frankly, I think that might be a sign that we’re paying them a bit too much when they’re at home not working.”

Since then, Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, has asked to meet with LePage to discuss the needs of the unemployed, but has not been able to get an appointment. So O’Brien, and state Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, joined the marchers as they held signs that said “I’m a jobs voter!” and chanted “What do we want? Jobs. When do we want them? Now!”

When they got to the gate of the Blaine House on Capitol Street, they were met by three top LePage officials who listened to some of their comments and then invited them to choose three people to meet with the governor.

“Let’s work toward a solution to create jobs for all Mainers,” said John Butera, senior economic adviser to LePage.

One of those chosen to meet with LePage, Wil Tibby of Mount Vernon, said he has a master’s degree and has been out of work for a “very long time now.” His previous job was as a management consultant in the transportation sector.

“I work hard,” he said. “I work smart. At the age of 61, no one wants to hire me.”

Ed Lachowicz of Waterville said he’s trying to find a job as a social worker, but that his unemployment benefits will run out in two weeks.

“There are no jobs,” he said. “A friend of mine sent out 83 job applications. That’s what she does. She has no job after months of looking.”

Lachowicz is treasurer of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee and his wife is Colleen Lachowicz, a Democratic candidate for Senate District 25 in central Maine.

Tibby, Lachowicz and Brenda Akers of Lewiston spent about an hour with LePage in the Cabinet Room. They were joined by O’Brien, who said after the meeting that “it went really well.”

“I think he is concerned about working people, but he has a different point of view on the issue and different ideas of what the solutions would be,” he said.

O’Brien said LePage’s comments about the unemployed diverted attention away from the important issues facing those who need work. There are about 51,000 unemployed Mainers.

Lachowicz said he hopes the governor can send a more positive message.

“What I asked the governor to do is use his office as a pulpit and say no, in fact, unemployed people aren’t lazy,” he said.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor has never called people lazy. She said he understands that a majority of those who are unemployed in Maine are working hard to find new jobs, but he remains concerned about “a small percentage” who are taking advantage of the system.

“He’s not going to overlook that,” she said.

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]


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