Maine gov says labor dept. mural anti-business

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2011 6:44 PM
Maine gov says labor dept. mural anti-business

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is nixing a mural depicting the state's labor history, including images of worker strikes and "Rosie the Riveter," from the Labor Department's lobby, prompting an outcry from labor advocates.

The mural is coming down and departmental conference rooms that carry the names of labor organizers, including Cesar Chavez, are being renamed because they aren't in keeping with the department's pro-business goals, said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.

"The reality is it's a picture depicting organized labor," Bennett said. "The Department of Labor needs to represent both job creators and workers."

The mural is painted on 11 panels that are bolted to a wall. It was erected in 2008 after artist Judy Taylor won a competition commissioned by the Maine Arts Commission. The piece depicts the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, a "Rosie the Riveter" image at the Bath Iron Works, the paper mill workers' strike of 1986 in Jay, and other moments in Maine labor history.

Don Berry, president of the Maine AFL-CIO, issued a statement Wednesday saying LePage is picking a fight with Maine's working class.

"No matter what you name a room, no matter how many pictures you take down, the truth is that this state was built by and for working people and this move dishonors the generations of hard-working Mainers who came before us," Berry said. "Paul LePage cannot erase our history, and he will not silence the voice of the working class in Maine."

Bennett said a number of people have complained the mural doesn't present a welcoming environment for business interests. The decision to take it down, first reported in the Sun Journal of Lewiston, was made by LePage, his staff and staff within the labor department, she said.

The conference rooms will be renamed for counties, mountains or something else perceived as impartial.

"We're looking for a decor that represents neutrality," she said. "And Cesar Chavez was on one side of the issue."

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Information from: Sun-Journal, http://www.sunjournal.com