(in response to the article found at http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/23/maine-governor-orders-labor-mural-takedown/ )
I grew up in Maine, and though we do have a few tall buildings, it is by no means a ‘city’ sort of state. You will not find the concrete jungles of New York, nor will you find the miles and miles and miles of sprawling city that California is so proud of, nor will you find the home offices of international powerhouses of finance or industry.
What you will find is about 1.3 million regular folks (roughly the population of San Diego spread over approximately 95 times the space), trying to get by as best they can in an area known for not a whole hell of a lot. Maine’s biggest exports are blueberries, toothpicks, and Stephen King novels. Common activities involve cursing Mother Nature, enjoying the outdoors, and working your fingers to the f*#$ing bone.
Much – perhaps even most – of Maine’s economy is labor-intensive. Fishing and logging, two of the most labor-intensive and dangerous jobs in the world, are responsible for a lot of the money made and spent there. Shipbuilding, leatherworking, agriculture – you name it, if it’s a pain in the ass to do and doesn’t pay near as well as it should, it’s probably responsible for the economic survival of at least two dozen towns and villages in Maine. The point I am trying to make here is that the vast bulk of folks from Maine fall solidly in the ‘labor’ camp and not that of ‘management’.
Enter Paul LePage, the new Republican governor whose politics are fairly typical of the post “oh crap those Tea Party guys are SERIOUS” Republican Party.
If there’s one thing the Maine government has fairly consistently gotten right, it is appreciation – or at least lip service – for the thousands and thousands of people who bust their humps from dawn to midnight, day after day, to keep the state working. The headquarters of the Department of Labor, for instance, has a gorgeous mural, spanning eleven panels and 36 feet, telling the history of the labor movement in Maine and some of its many conflicts. Students of labor history might remember reading of the massive strikes in 1937 at shoe mills sparked by ridiculously unsafe working practices and discriminatory management, or the strike in 1987 at the paper mill caused, among other reasons, by International Paper’s refusal to address environmental concerns and its attempt to eliminate the only holiday the mills granted its workers.
Furthermore, many of its conference rooms are named after heroes of the labor movement from all over, like the César Chávez room (if you don’t recognize that name immediately, you are doing yourself a great disservice by continuing to read this instead of Googling him), the Frances Perkins room (the Secretary of Labor under Franklin D Roosevelt – and the first woman to hold a department head position in the Federal government), and the William Looney room (a local boy from Portland who grew up to be the chairman of the House Committee on Labor and sponsored a bill limiting working hours for women and children in factories in the late 1800’s).
Governor LePage, however, has forgotten the thousands and thousands of people he attained his position on the very backs of, and is ordering the mural removed and the conference rooms renamed. It’s not as friendly to businesses as it should be, you see. Gives the message that Maine cares more about workers than it does about businesses, after all, and we can’t have that.
LePage, even though I no longer live in Maine, I grew up there and spent around two decades in it. I am still enough of a Mainiac to deliver this message to you without the slightest hesitation:
Get the hell out of our state.
For someone who cares so much about business, you certainly have none attempting to quiet the contributions of millions of hard working citizens who built this state from a blank forest to the burgeoning economy it is. You would not have your job if not for the hard working people in the Great State of Maine. The very house you live in, the Blaine House, was built by an old ship’s captain – someone who needed to really understand the delicate balance between labor and management, or risk being chucked overboard by the crew. How do you sleep at night within those walls, given how little you care for the people that put you there? Granted, nobody’s going to be tossing you over the side of a ship anytime soon, but you may find yourself woefully short of friends the next time the ballot boxes come out.
If there is one thing I learned after growing up in Maine, it is never, ever, ever anger someone – much less an entire population – near the tail end of a long, cold winter. Cabin Fever and other frustrations are at their peak, and folks from Maine have long memories. This won’t be forgotten for a long time, and 2015 is not as far off as you think. For that matter, we haven’t tossed a governor out early yet, but since you see no need to hold fast to history and tradition, why should we?