23 March 2011

The Poor Oppressed Business Community!



These are the panels of a mural by Judy Taylor that, since 2008, has adorned the building housing the Maine State Department of Labor. According to news reports the Governor - Republican Paul LePage - has ordered the mural removed because it allegedly makes the Department inhospitable to businesses. He rationalizes his order by reference to a set of complaints (anonymous, as far as I can tell) from those suffering the discomfort. The mural was funded by the state Arts Council, the artist was selected via a competitive process, and the panels depict workers, their organizations, and the history of labor conflicts (including - gasp! - strikes!) in the State. This mural hardly is in-your-face agitprop. After all it simply celebrates freedom of association.

The governor also has ordered a set of rooms in the Department that currently are named after labor and political leaders be re-labeled. (As if the business elites would be quaking at the memory of Frances Perkins!) His putative aim is "neutrality" that will make the business community comfortable enough to invest in Maine. And here I thought businessmen were oh so robust and vigorous. How could a simple mural be so intimidating?
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P.S.: All this really raises a question in my mind. If the Republicans don't like welfare recipients because they don't work, and they don't like working people because they might organize to stick up for themselves in the face of authoritarian business structures (and firms are indeed authoritarian), just who is it that Republicans like?

P.S.2: And here is a report from the newspaper of record.

P.S.3: Update on subsequent events here and the resulting court filing here.

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