Another Right-wing, Republican Governor is getting into trouble, this time in Maine. Governor Paul LePage is ordering a mural at the state Department of Labor (DOL) taken down because it is biased against business. Yes, a department that is supposed to look after the interests of the working man/woman has to take down a mural that celebrates the working man/woman.
LaPage has intensified the storm because he not only wants the mural gone, he wants the names of conference rooms, which are named after such luminaries as Frances Perkins (secretary of labor for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a Cabinet post) and César Chávez, in the DOL building changed. Yes, you heard that right. He’s taking micro-managing to the extreme.
You may have noticed LaPage, who became Governor with only 38% of the vote in a three-way race, isn’t the first Republican Governor to declare war on working people. It appears he’s jealous of the attention that other Republican Governors (Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Chris Christie of New Jersey) are getting, even if they are getting it for all the wrong reasons.
According to The Lewiston Sun-Journal, LaPage’s spokesperson Dan Demeritt said the administration felt the mural and the conference room monikers showed “one-sided decor” not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals. I don’t know about Maine, but most states have a Department of Labor (DOL), and a Department of Commerce. Usually the way it works is that the state DOL stands up for the rights of workers while the Department of Commerce is responsible for the business agenda the Governor wants to promote.
If you are thinking that a lot of this is shady, you are far from alone. Via The Portland Press-Herald, they quote another LaPage spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett, who provided the newspaper with one fax in support of the Governor’s move. It said:
“In this mural I observed a figure which closely resembles the former commissioner of labor,” the person wrote. “In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”
It was signed “A Secret Admirer.” As the newspaper also notes, it appears the supporting fax was sent from the DOL building lobby.
The mural in question was erected in 2008 following a jury selection by the Maine Arts Commission and a $60,000 federal grant. The 11-panel piece, done by Maine artist Judy Taylor, depicts several moments, including the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, “Rosie the Riveter” at Bath Iron Works, and the paper mill workers’ strike of 1986 in Jay.
One wonders where the protests were before now. It’s a sign of extreme Republican hubris that they think they can get away with this attack on workers and their rights. People are pissed off at big business and their stooges because of the economic mess they caused. It appears the breaking point has been reached, at least in some states. One hopes that Maine fights back against this arrogant Governor and reaffirms the rights of workers.