Seeking a voice in the process to select a new president for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, two dozen activists protested outside the bank in Center City on Monday.
"The Fed is such a mystery. We just want transparency," marchers chanted as they walked along Sixth Street, many wearing green T-shirts with the slogans "Fed Up" and "What Recovery?"
The march came amid speculation whether the Federal Open Market Committee, meeting Tuesday, would increase the discount rate - the rate charged banks for short-term loans they receive from the regional Federal Reserve Banks - in light of the improving economy.
In a statement Monday, the Philadelphia Fed said it had engaged an executive search company to find a replacement for president Charles Plosser, whose term expires March 1.
"Senior executives have met with representatives of groups who have expressed interest in the process," the statement said.
"The search committee has said it will look at a broad, diverse group of candidates from inside and outside the Federal Reserve System," the statement said.
The Fed's record low interest rates "should make us nervous," Plosser said in an interview with CNBC in November.
He has been among the central bank's most outspoken members on raising rates. Recent economic data indicate that "we should raise rates now or in the near future," he told reporters after a speech in Charlotte, N.C., the Wall Street Journal reported.
During Monday's protest, which lasted about an hour, various people told their stories, about how they had been unable to find jobs or were working below their educational levels even as they struggled to save their homes from foreclosure and pay their bills.
Kia Philpot-Hinton, 38, of Southwest Philadelphia, said she has not been able to find an accounting job. "It's crushing when you are struggling to make ends meet. We're not in a recovery in my neighborhood," she said.
"We deserve to make an ample amount of money to support our family," said Chris Campbell, 23, of Philadelphia, adding that he had been unable to find steady employment in construction.
The protest was mounted by Action United, a nationally organized group of activists that coalesces around economic issues.
One leader of Monday's protest was Kendra Brooks, who said she has a master's degree in business administration and was laid off from Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2012. As an Action United organizer, she said, she now earns half of what she previously earned.
She was part of a group that visited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in November.
"They were engaged and interested in what we had to say," Brooks said, adding that Yellen wanted to know whether foreclosure-prevention programs and other efforts to help the poor were effective.
Brooks said raising interest rates would prompt businesses to cut back hiring, tightening the job market, and forcing people to accept lower wages.
Among those marching was Lance Haver, director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs. Haver said that even if the Fed is not the usual focus of protests by activists, they can be effective.
In 1998, he said, First Union Corp., which became Wachovia and is now Wells Fargo & Co., acquired CoreStates Bank in Philadelphia. Activists' protests, he said, prompted the Federal Reserve to prevent First Union from closing CoreStates branches in some poorer neighborhoods.
"Instead of shuttering them," Haver said, some branches became credit unions and led to First Union's being required to provide community-development funds.