Last Friday, on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Maine governor Paul LePage announced plans to remove a mural from Maine’s Department of Labor building painted by artist Judy Taylor of Tremont, ME. The Portland Press Herald writes,
“The 36-foot-long, 11 panel mural depicts the state’s labor history, including a shoe worker strike in Lewiston, female shipbuilders and striking papermakers in Jay.” Gov. LePage also ordered the renaming of Department’s conference rooms, four of which are named after women including Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet member, and Marion Martin, founder of the National Federation of Republican Women. Another one of the conference rooms is named for Cesar Chavez.
LePage says removing the mural and renaming the conference rooms is part of an effort to make Maine more business-friendly. “I’m trying to send a message to everyone in the state that the state of Maine looks at employees and employers equally, neutrally and on balance,” he said. “The mural sends a message that we’re one-sided, and I don’t want to send that message.”
To me, the only message Governor LePage is sending is one that devalues the history of a diverse group of workers, including women, racial minorities, and children, whose stories are all too often unacknowledged and in danger of being forgotten. His message also ignores the fact that people organizing for rights like equal pay and safer working conditions have contributed to a modern business environment in Maine and across the United States in which communication and collaboration between employers and employees is more open and safer, creating a better work environment for all parties involved. His message is one that divides us rather than unites us, saying that what is good for business is divorced from the principles of equity, transparency, and human dignity.
Please take the time to contact Governor LePage by emailing him at http://www.maine.gov/governor/lepage/citizen_services/ideas-suggestions.shtml or by calling his office at 207-287-3531. Let us act in the spirit of the disenfranchised workers in Judy Tremont’s mural and show Governor LePage that our collective voice is stronger than the interests of the privileged few.
Editor Update: The mural was removed this weekend, according to Amanda Terkel of Huffington Post