Mural of Maine’s Workers Becomes Political Target

Panels 7-9: The 1937 Strike, Francis Perkins, and Rosie the Riveter.

Panels 1-11.

Steven Greenhouse, Gov. Paul LePage Takes Aim at Mural to Maine’s Workers, N.Y. Times, Mar. 24, 2011, at A18.

Clashes at state capitols over organized labor have become commonplace this year, with protesters throughout the country objecting to proposed limits on collective bargaining and cuts in benefits. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has opened a new — and unlikely — front in the battle between some lawmakers and unions: a 36-foot-wide mural in the state’s Department of Labor building in Augusta.

The three-year-old mural has 11 panels showing scenes of Maine workers, including colonial-era shoemaking apprentices, lumberjacks, a “Rosie the Riveter” in a shipyard and a 1986 paper mill strike. Taken together, his administration deems these scenes too one-sided in favor of unions.

A spokeswoman said Mr. LePage, a Republican, ordered the mural removed after several business officials complained about it and after the governor received an anonymous fax saying it was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Danger,

    Bangor Daily News: US Labor Department demands refund in Maine mural dispute (4/4/2011)

    If Maine Gov. Paul LePage doesn’t wish to display a mural depicting the state’s labor history, then the federal money used to create it should be returned, the U.S. Department of Labor says.

    The department said Monday that LePage violated the terms of federal laws governing money used to pay for most of the mural’s $60,000 cost when he removed the artwork from state offices last month.

    The demand came in a letter to state labor officials from Gay Gilbert, administrator of the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Unemployment Insurance. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

    Gilbert’s letter is the latest twist in a growing national dispute over LePage’s decision to remove the 36-foot mural from the state Labor Department headquarters. LePage, a Republican, said it was biased toward organized labor at the expense of his pro-business agenda.

    … About 63 percent of the mural’s cost came from money in the state’s account in the federal unemployment trust fund. Gilbert’s letter said the state would have to return 63 percent of the fair market value of the mural to that account, which is supported by federal employer taxes.

    … LePage’s decision to remove the mural was prompted in part by an anonymous letter to the governor’s office — signed by “A Secret Admirer” — that said the mural was propaganda in line with “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

    LePage also directed that the agency’s conference rooms, which are named for labor leaders, be renamed for something considered unbiased.

    Several hundred people attended a rally in the State House on Monday demanding the return of the labor mural to the state Labor Department headquarters.

  2. Danger,

    Bangor Daily News: Federal suit filed against LePage, two others, over mural removal (4/1/2011)

    Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to remove a mural about the state’s labor history from the Department of Labor in Augusta is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

    The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, seeks to confirm the mural’s location, ensure that the mural is adequately preserved, and ultimately to restore the mural to its original location, contending the removal of the mural is a First Amendment issue.

    … “The Complaint alleges that government officials, Paul LePage in his capacity as Governor; Joseph Phillips in his capacity as director of the Maine State Museum; and Laura Boyette in her capacity as acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, have acted in violation of the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments and have failed in their fiduciary duties,” according to a news release sent by the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

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