Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wingnut ME gov takes labor mural down

Three mural panels, "The Strike," "Frances Perkins," "Rosie the Riveter."

Frances Perkins was there when the first body hit the ground. One hundred years ago this week, 146 workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City. Perkins dedicated the rest of her life to advocating for workplace safety, becoming the first female cabinet member and U.S. Labor Secretary.

Her name will now be taken down from the Maine Department of Labor offices. That's because Perkins was biased against business owners, at least according to Paul LePage, Maine's new wackadoodle governor.

LePage has also ordered a 36-foot mural depicting Maine’s labor history to be removed from the lobby of the Department of Labor. Rooms named after prominent labor leaders will be renamed. It’s a perfect symbol of corporate-owned politicians tearing down the historic achievements of hardworking people. It's a blatant insult to working families, past and present.

If you haven’t eaten recently, here’s the email directive from Laura Boyett, corporate stooge acting Commissioner of the Department of Labor, posted to the Maine blog Dirigo Blue:
We have received feedback that the administration building is not perceived as equally receptive to both businesses and workers – primarily because of the nature of the mural in the lobby and the names of our conference rooms. Whether or not the perception is valid is not really at issue and therefore, not open to debate.
The mural was erected in 2008 and features 11 panels depicting important moments in labor history, including the state’s 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, the 1986 paper mill workers’ strike in Jay and “Rosie the Riveter.”

Judy Taylor, the artist who created the mural, told the Sun Journal she has only heard good things about the mural from visitors to the DOL, and is devastated to see it come down. She said:
There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor. It was a pure depiction of the facts.
All of this happens just as wingnut LePage pushes tax hikes for workers and tax cuts for millionaires. He proposes massive cuts to government programs that benefit working people.  He wants to raise the retirement age for state government workers and teachers, freeze their cost-of-living adjustments and require that they contribute more into their retirement pension funds. Only one state worker's pension will be unchanged: Le Page's. He threatens to veto any budget that has changes. He’s also said, “We’re going after right to work.”

As for the Frances Perkins room, acting Labor Commissioner Boyett had a fit of whimsy and proposes a contest: 
I will be seeking a new home for the mural and we will be renaming the conference rooms in our administrative office at Commerce Drive in Augusta. However, I'd like your help in coming up with new names for the conference rooms. I'm holding a 'renaming contest' and will select from your suggestions.
(It's okay to name a street "Commerce" but not okay to name a Labor Department room after Frances Perkins? Anybody home there in Maine?)

You can participate in the contest here by suggesting names such  as "Handouts to Corporate Polluters" and "Right to Work for Less."