March 23, 2011- Gov. Paul LePage has ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting Maine's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor.
Worker advocates described the move as a "mean-spirited" provocation amid the administration's high-tension standoff with unions.
Acting labor chief Laura Boyett emailed staff Tuesday about the mural's pending removal, as well as another administration directive to rename several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.
According to LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt, the administration felt the mural and the conference room monikers showed "one-sided decor" not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals.
"The message from state agencies needs to be balanced," said Demeritt, adding that the mural had sparked complaints from "some business owners" who complained it was hostile to business.
Demeritt declined to name the businesses.
The mural was erected in 2008 following a jury selection by the Maine Arts Commission and a $60,000 federal grant. Judy Taylor, the artist from Seal Cove, said Tuesday that her piece was never meant to be political, simply a depiction of Maine's labor history.
The 11-panel piece depicts several moments, including the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, "Rosie the Riveter" at Bath Iron Works, and the paper mill workers' strike of 1986 in Jay.
According to Taylor, the idea for the panels came from Charley Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine.
Taylor said the administration's decision to remove the mural was "terrible." She said her 2007 selection by the Maine Arts Commission was the "commission of a lifetime."
Taylor said she'd never heard that her mural painted an unflattering picture of business.
"There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor," she said. "It was a pure depiction of the facts."