Mural of Maine's Workers Becomes Political Target -- Labor Historians Weigh In





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....

Charles Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine, said: “Totalitarian regimes erase history as well. We manage to do it by indifference or neglect or for ideological reasons.” He voiced surprise that a Franco-American like the governor, whose wife was once a union steward, would take such a move when the mural honored the work that generations of Maine’s Franco-Americans had done in the shoe, textile and paper industries....


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