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Because of one strange anonymous fax, the state of Maine has removed a mural from the Department of Labor’s headquarters. Maine’s Governor Paul LePage has expressed support for Wisconsin’s union stripping bill. But, he has gone farther than that. In an inexplicable move, the governor removed the mural that depicted Maine’s labor history in an effort to make the Department more “business-friendly.”
In the short time that LePage has been in office, he has rocked the boat numerous times. 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.” LePage doesn’t think that there should any restrictions on how much children work.
LePage previously said that the 36-foot, 11-panel mural would not be removed until it could find a new home where it could be displayed. Instead, the mural was removed over the past weekend and is now in storage. Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage, said it will remain there until a suitable spot can be found to put it on public display.
The artwork was not appropriate for the Department of Labor because it is one-sided in favor of labor interests at the expense of business interests at a time when LePage is pushing a pro-business agenda, Bennett said. The LePage administration also ordered that the conference rooms in the Department of Labor that are currently named for labor leaders be renamed for mountains, counties, or something else perceived as neutral. The rooms have not been renamed yet.
The announcement from LePage about removing the mural attracted national attention. Because of the attention, the administration decided to remove the mural over the weekend. “We feel the mural controversy is counterproductive to the work the Department of Labor needs to focus on and our state as a whole needs to focus on,” she said.
The alleged reason for the entire mural removal came from a fax. Bennett released an anonymous fax received by the governor’s office and signed by “A Secret Admirer” that said the mural was propaganda in line with “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.” Brilliant. All my emails to politicians go unanswered and this guy gets an entire mural removed because of his delusions.
Many people have expressed outrage and confusion over the whole mural-gate. Robert Shetterly, the president of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, felt that it was “an exceptionally cowardly act” to move it over the weekend when no one would notice. “If he really believed this was the right thing to do, he would … be there himself, he would explain to Maine people why this was a good idea for Maine’s democratic future and Maine’s economic future.”
“We’ve seen an outpouring of opposition and bewilderment to the governor’s action from business leaders, working people, citizens and his own party,” Maine AFL-CIO President Don Berry said in a statement. “Yet he continues to take a my-way-or-the-highway approach.”