Coaxed by 'A Secret Admirer,' the governor orders the removal of artwork depicting the state's labor history – and finds himself again at the center of controversy.
March 24, 2011- Labor leaders and the state's biggest Latino group expressed outrage Wednesday at Gov. Paul LePage's decision to remove a mural depicting workers from the Department of Labor's headquarters and rename conference rooms in the building.
Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, called the decision "insulting to working people, petty and shortsighted."
"It seems the governor is much more interested in picking fights with labor than creating jobs that people so desperately want," he said. "We believe their story deserves to be told on the walls of the Department of Labor."
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.
It also highlights dangerous working conditions, long work hours and child labor, according to a 2008 memo from the Department of Labor.
LePage explained his decision on the Boston-based Howie Carr radio show late in the day.
"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."
Ralph Carmona, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said a directive to rename a conference room that's now named for the late farm worker advocate Cesar Chavez is troubling.
"The really bad news is that his decision to remove a civil rights icon's name from the Labor Department reflects an underlying pattern of actions and words that affect all Mainers," he said.
That pattern includes LePage's comment to the NAACP to "kiss my butt," saying that women might grow "little beards" if they are exposed to the chemical Bisphenol-A, and a statement that he would go after union rights, Carmona said.
"What is next, the burning of books or the end of Labor Day as a holiday?" said Jose Lopez, director of the Latin American league. "When you add it all up, he is talking about business in a narrow sense that excludes Maine people and the public interest."