It was disgusting enough when Republican Governors and state legislators in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio launched a campaign to squash public employee unions. Now we have Governor of Maine Paul LePage escalating the war against working people to include elimination of public art that celebrates the dignity of honest toil. Here’s a report from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:
Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.
The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.
The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”
Are we still in America?
As Reich points out, there is no mystery about LePage’s diss of Frances Perkins:
She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.
In other words, all the things today’s GOP wants to take away from working people.
If you were wondering how lame the Governor’s defense of his executive order gets, this CNN report provides a sample:
To underscore the point, the governor’s office recently released a written complaint from a visitor to the state’s labor office to the Portland Press Herald.
“In this mural I observed a figure which closely resembles the former commissioner of labor,” the visitor wrote, according to the newspaper. “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.”
The letter writer identified himself as “A Secret Admirer,” the newspaper reported.
Don’t be surprised if it is later revealed that the “secret admirer” is a fat cat contributor. The people of Maine can be forgiven if they point out that the governor’s job description does not include “groveling lackey for big business.”
The mural, created by artist Judy Taylor, (see it here) was selected by a jury of the Maine Arts Commission. It presents a moving tribute to working people, but it’s certainly not as controversial as Diego Riviera’s 1933 mural on the wall of New York’s RCA Centre, which was removed by Nelson Rockefeller’s order.
Yeah, I know. It’s just a mural. But the incident does suggest that there are few indignities some Republican Governors will not suffer to demonstrate their inordinate fondness for labor-bashing — even if it means censorship.