In ‘message’ to big business, Maine governor LePage orders labor mural removed

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:03 EDT
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Exclusive update: Artist ‘disappointed’ by decision

The Republican governor of Maine has a wild idea: displace history to make the state appear more friendly to wealth.

That’s precisely what Gov. Paul LePage has ordered. In the state’s Department of Labor building, a 36-foot mural depicting the history of labor movements in Maine, will soon be painted over to send a “message” to business that Maine is not a labor-run state.

The mural, which depicts illustrations of union workers demonstrating in front of black-and-white images showing the state’s labor history, was installed in 2008.

Reached by Raw Story, Judy Tailor, the artist who created Maine’s labor mural, said she was “disappointed” by the governor’s decision.

Tailor added that “the jury is out” on what will become of her artwork once it is removed, calling the year-long process of creating the massive mural “fascinating, heartbreaking and moving.”

“A years work, research, careful planning and execution,” she wrote in an email exchange. “A lot of feeling in that mural.”

LePage revealed his plan during a Wednesday radio interview. He’s also ordered a number of the Department of Labor’s conference room names changed, apparently because they are named after heroes to the labor movement, like Caesar Chavez and Frances Perkins, America’s first female labor secretary.

“I’m trying to send a message to everyone in the state that the state of Maine looks at employees and employers equally, neutrally and on balance,” he reportedly said.

LePage added that the move comes after “several” complaints, including an anonymous fax that compared a depiction of U.S. history to North Korean propaganda.

“It’s unfortunate that Governor LePage continues to pick fights with the working class in Maine,” Don Berry, president of Maine’s AFL-CIO, told The Portland Press-Herald. “This is political payback, the opposite of putting people first. It’s a spiteful, mean-spirited move by the governor that does nothing to create jobs or improve the Maine economy.”

A spokesperson for LePage said the mural would be moved from government offices, not destroyed.

The Maine governor’s move comes amid a pitched political fight in states across the nation, where Republican governors have launched an assault on union bargaining rights.

LePage’s last flirtation with national media attention came in January, when he refused to speak with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Speaking to a CNN affiliate about why he refused to appear at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event, the governor said that the national black organization can “kiss my butt” if they were upset.

In his inaugural speech, LePage promised to overturn what he called government’s “adversarial” relationship with business. In a January interview with Fox Business, LePage said that he wanted to eliminate regulations and “reduce the tax base” in Maine.

This video is from the Fox Business Channel, originally broadcast January 20, 2011.

Updated from an original version.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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