Erasing Labor History in Maine

Maine's new Tea Party governor, Paul LePage, is going after more than union workers' pensions and right-to-work legislation. He is going to remove a mural depicting the history of labor in Maine from the state's Labor Department building. The mural, which depicts local strikes and Rosie the Riveter, is one-sided, LePage claims. The artist has countered that it's not biased; it simply depicts historical events.

A LePage spokesman says the move is meant to be neutral to business and to affirm the pro-business attitude of the administration, a move which doesn't seem necessary given his policies toward unions and worker benefits. But the decision makes a lot of sense in the context of the recent attacks on labor. Like in Wisconsin, what was so disturbing about Gov. Walker's proposal is that it didn't just ask for concessions; it attempted to wipe out public-sector unions. So it's not surprising that LePage would also try to wipe labor from memory as well. 

In addition to removing the mural, LePage has ordered that the names of several conference rooms be changed to be more business friendly, suggesting that rooms currently named for the first female secretary of labor Frances Perkins and labor icon Cesar Chavez could be named after mountains or counties.

The sad thing is, without this history, it's hard to remember why departments of labor even exist. Republicans like LePage in Maine, Walker in Wisconsin, and many others, are so dedicated to destroying labor that even the facts of history threaten their cause. On the one hand, it's petty and stupid. On the other, progressives need this history as much as conservatives want it removed.

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