Maine's conservative new governor, Paul LePage, has added a new twist to his feud with unions: He's ordering the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of... the Maine Department of Labor. The mural's 11 panels show, among other things, a shoe worker strike and "Rosie the Riveter" working at Maine's Bath Iron Works. The administration is also renaming several conference rooms named after Cesar Chavez and other labor icons. Union leaders called the moves "mean-spirited," but a LePage spokesman said the "one-sided decor" was hostile to business. Is LePage trying to tweak organized labor, or make his state more pro-business?
What a cheap shot: This is "despicable," says Robert Reich at The Business Insider. Big businesses emerged from the recession with "pockets bulging," while the average American is "still in desperate trouble." The new assault on workers by LePage and other Republicans — "on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees and government itself" — is bad enough. But they have no right to blot out "our common memory of history."
"Why Governor LePage can't erase history, and why we need a fighter in the White House"
Well, the murals are a bit one-sided: LePage is just trying to follow through on a promise to make Maine "more business-friendly," says Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, as quoted in the Portland Press Herald. So how about a compromise? Instead of removing the entire mural, "maybe we could add a business element to it," and depict "the importance of employer and employee."
"LePage to Department of Labor: Lobby mural must go"
Regardless, LePage has become a punchline: "What an embarrassment," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. LePage has already rolled back child labor laws, launched a Wisconsin-like assault on public-employee unions, and told the NAACP to "kiss my butt." But now his "buffoonish" attacks have finally gone too far. It's as if he wants to create a new kind of political correctness, in which anything that "might somehow bother the wealthy and powerful" is strictly verboten.
"LePage just can't help himself"
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