It’s Diego Rivera Redux in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage is taking down a mural in the state Department of Labor building depicting the history of the labor movement and changing the names of conference rooms that he deems too pro-labor.
The 11-panel installation depicted such figures as Rosie the Riveter and FDR-era Labor Secretary Frances Perkins as well as events like a 1937 shoe mill strike and 1986 paper mill workers’ strike. Several rooms are named after historic labor figures including Perkins and Cesar Chavez.
A spokesman for LePage told the Lewiston Sun Journal that business had complained about the piece and “The message from state agencies needs to be balanced.” He added that the rooms could instead be named “after mountains, counties or something.”
Progressive and labor groups are upset about the change and the artist who painted it, Judy Taylor, told the paper that the mural’s message was already fair.
“There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor,” she said. “It was a pure depiction of the facts.”
Maine blog Dirigo Blue posted a purported e-mail to staff from Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Boyett explaining the decision, as well as pictures of the offending mural.
“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,” the e-mail reads. “Whether or not the perception is valid is not really at issue and therefore, not open to debate. If either of our two constituencies perceives that they are not welcome in our administration building and this translates to a belief that their needs will not be heard or met by this department, then it presents a barrier to achieving our mission.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.