Labor history is the new Confederate history

Back in 2008 Maine’s Labor Department unveiled a mural depicting the history of the state’s labor movement at their headquarters, which seems kind of appropriate given the fact that it’s, you know, the Dept. of Labor.

Now Gov. Paul LePage has decided that the mural is too much of a hot potato, so it’s got to go:

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor’s office has received “several messages” from the public complaining about the mural. She also released an anonymous fax, dated Feb. 24, that apparently came from someone who recently visited the Labor Department’s lobby.

“In this mural I observed a figure which closely resembles the former commissioner of labor,” the person wrote. “In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

Conference rooms in the same building are named for important figures in the history of labor, so they’re going to re-christen them, too.  One of them is currently named for Marion Martin, a pioneering female politician who worked to motivate Republican women voters during the GOP’s troubled New Deal years and organized the National Federation of Women’s Republican Clubs.  Since Gov. LePage is himself an ardent Republican, you’d think he would think twice about that one, or at least consider the irony.

A Maine newspaper got hold of a memo from the state’s acting Labor Commissioner:

“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,” she wrote. “Whether or not the perception is valid is not really at issue and therefore, not open to debate.”

She asks workers to suggest names for the conference rooms by April 5 and indicates there will be “a small prize” for anyone who comes up with a new name.

What I want to know is whether the re-naming contest is open to the public or just restricted to DOL staff.  If it’s the former, then I suggest we name each conference room for a different Masters of the Universe character—the He-Man Room, the Skeletor Room, the Evil-Lyn Room, the Stratos Room, and so forth. It would really give the place some class.

Speaking of labor history, today’s the 100th anniversary of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  It left 146 garment workers dead, most of them immigrant women in their late teens and early twenties.  These days it’s a lot easier for a young gal to land a good job, especially if she happens to be Gov. LePage’s daughter.


Filed under History and Memory

2 responses to “Labor history is the new Confederate history

  1. Matt McKeon

    LePage is an embarassment to the great state of Maine.

  2. Michael Lynch

    What little I’ve read of him seems to indicate that LePage isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.


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