Archive for March 24th, 2011

History of Labor in the State of Maine- Judy Taylor Studio

This is a mural that adorns the Department of Labor in the state of Maine. Measuring 8′ high by 36′ long, it was created by Maine artist Judy Taylor in  2007/2008 to commemorate significant moments in Maine’s labor history, including the adoption of child labor laws, better working conditions for all workers and the increasing signifigance of women in the labor force.  It also memorializesMaine native  Frances Perkins, who was the Secretary of Labor under FDR, the first female to hold any cabinet post.  It glorifies the plight of the worker in an appropriate setting, the Department of Labor, and is a striking and significant piece of public art.

Maybe it’s just me but this seems like a no-brainer but recently this mural has come under attack.  Maine Governor Paul LePage (R)  has ordered that is be taken down as he has had complaints from business factions that it is unfairly biased against business owners.  As proof, they released an anonymous fax signed “A Secret Admirer” who claimed that he felt he was in North Korea viewing public political propaganda and this was nothing more than an effort to further the Union movement. 

The governor also plans to change the name of several meeting rooms in the building named after people in the Maine labor movement.

From looking at the mural and its short descriptions of each panel ( to do so, click on the image above and it will take you the artist’s site), I saw only moments of history that elevated the average worker and protected the vulnerable from exploitation.  How anyone could see child labor laws as being biased against business and not a positive step forward for our society is beyond me.  And this is in the Department of LABOR.   But there is a movement afoot to squash the labor movement, mainly trade unions,  in this country which many think people will not affect them and their lives.  After all, how many people are union members today?  But there is more at stake with this attack than the rights of the unions.

It is both a beginning erosion of the rights we have garnered through the efforts of labor unions and others in the past and a political maneuver to destroy the only organized group that represents the worker in any political sense.  Unions are the only organized political donors who somewhat check the unbridled money injected by business concerns into the political arena.  And even the money spent by unions pales in comparison to that spent by businesses and their lobbyists.  But it is still opposition and must be destroyed and this move by Gov. LePage is symptomatic of this effort.  Demonize and destroy.

I might have a kinder eye toward the efforts of LePage and his ilk if they gave me a reason but all I can see is that our manufacturing base has been stripped away and moved to places around the world where these companies can operate like they were mill or mine owners in the 19th century.  I have even heard recent rumblings that child labor laws are considered unconstitutional in some circles.  These political leaders seem bent on doing whatever they can to take us back to a pre-union world and this small effort to take away an innocuous mural in a government building (the Dept. of LABOR!) is yet another step. 

We must continue to speak out against this sort of action.

Sorry for straying into the political world but they baited me when they crossed into the art world.

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