So, given that my idiot governor Paul LePage is regularly making national news and even being ridiculed on “The Daily Show” by Jon Stewart, I don’t feel bad about bitching about things from my sparsely populated corner of the United States (because it’s now relevant even to those of you in major metro areas). And what I want to bitch about now is the removal of a 15-foot mural from the Maine Department of Labor that depicted scenes from the history of workers (child labor, Rosie the Riveter and women shipbuilders, etc.). It wasn’t a “pro-union” mural or anything like that, but rather a historical timeline in visual form of the face of labor over the decades in this nation.
Remember, this is displayed in the Department of Labor.
In a sneaky and totally non-transparent fashion, soliciting no public comment, LePage took the mural down, citing as his reason a single letter from an anonymous source who said the mural was offensive. Now, that story has changed multiple times (was it a letter? a faxed document? something else?), but it’s stupid regardless. You don’t bend to the will of a single anonymous person. More to the point, now as Monday rolls around, LePage is saying his removal of the mural is an attempt to be “neutral.” That is, he sees the mural as antagonistic to business and too much in favor of workers’ rights and organized labor and such. He wants Maine to be business-friendly.
Even if you make that argument, the point remains that this is the Department of Labor. If the mural had been in the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, he might have a point. You see, the first department (Labor) has connections to workers and to businesses, but the focus is on the workers overwhelmingly, as it should be. The latter department (Economic & Community Development) has connections to businesses and communities, but its focus is overwhelmingly on the business interests (the Department of Economic and Community Development isn’t out promoting community organizing and such, for example, but building communities through economic and business growth).
In other words, we have two separate and distinct departments, and one of them already is business-friendly. That one didn’t have a labor mural. The one that did had every reason to display it.
But in a larger context, why is a mural depicting the history of labor in this country, which has some pretty spotty moments to say the least, offensive to business?
Why is being pro-labor seen as anti-business in this country?
They are not two forces in opposition but two sides of the same coin. Yes, strife does rise up between companies and labor at times, but for the most part, they work together. They have to. Most people wouldn’t have work without companies and most companies cannot operate without a workforce.
To say that supporting workers’ rights, workplace safety and fair wages is anti-business is sort of like putting on a dance and saying the Decoration Committee is anti-Refreshment Committee. No, because aren’t supposed to be adversaries. They both contribute.
Fact is, though, that companies always have the upper hand because they control the money and they traditionally reward management far out of proportion to the work it actually does, and they screw over the workers by complaining that they want things like fair wages. And when companies fail, the executives get bailouts while the workers who gave their blood, sweat and tears are the ones who just get jobless with no decent parachute to break their fall into unemployment.
So, pardon me if I don’t think that businesses need to be coddled and protected from a little criticism when they already have the upper hand.
Pardon me if I think the least…the very absolute fucking least…we can do is to give voice to the challenges, successes and strength of labor through a goddamned mural.