Unions to LePage: ‘We are Maine’s living labor history’

Attendees at the Maine Labor Council's "Forum on Jobs" Saturday, June 18, 2011, in Brewer were asked to participate in a depiction of the Maine Labor History Mural that was removed from the Department of Labor's office by Gov. Paul LePage.
Bangor Daily News/Michael C. York
Attendees at the Maine Labor Council's "Forum on Jobs" Saturday, June 18, 2011, in Brewer were asked to participate in a depiction of the Maine Labor History Mural that was removed from the Department of Labor's office by Gov. Paul LePage.
Posted June 18, 2011, at 4:38 p.m.
Last modified June 18, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The caption under the photo will read: “We are Maine’s living labor history.”

When it lands on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk, he will see more than 100 men and women standing in front of an auditorium stage. Behind and above them will be a symbolic recreation of the mural depicting the state’s labor history that LePage ordered removed from the Department of Labor’s office in Augusta.

“We cannot let history be erased,” Meredith Defrancesco said just before the photo was snapped.

The living mural was one of many activities during the Maine Workers’ Forum on Jobs. Sponsored by the Eastern Maine Labor Council and the Worker Center of Eastern Maine, it was held Saturday at the Brewer Auditorium.

LePage’s removal earlier this year of the mural sight unseen could be interpreted as  symbolic of the governor’s attitude toward labor, according an organizer of the event said.

“A lot of Maine workers have been frustrated with legislation being considered in Augusta,” Chris Tucker said last week at a press conference announcing the event. “They feel the governor and some lawmakers have forgotten workers’ needs as they work to improve the state’s business climate.”

That was one reason all 11 mural panels,  titled — The Apprentice, Lost Childhood, The Textile Workers, The Secret Ballot, First Labor Day, The Woods Workers, The 1937 Strike, Francis Perkins, Rosie the Riveter, The Strike of 1986 and The Future — were brought to life by Heinrick Snyder of Bangor.

Snyder made 11 3-by-8-foot muslin-covered panels similar to but not copies of the ones created by artist Julie Taylor of Tremont for the mural. He said after Saturday’s event that he taped images as similar to those used in Taylor’s panels as he could find, to the tops of the the muslin panels to serve as back drops for individuals who would explain each one.

Standing in front of a panel representing the 1986 strike at the Boise Cascade paper mill in Rumford when 300 workers were hired to replace striking workers, Emery Deabay, a member of United Steel Workers Local 1188 in Bucksport and a board member of the Maine AFL-CIO, said there had been an unintended consequence to LePage’s actions.

“He galvinized us, he energized us, he mobilized us to make his last two years in office the worst years of his life by giving him a Democratic House and Democratic Senate,” Deabay said, referring to the fact that the Republican governor had a Republican majority in the Legislature for the first time in three decades.

Snyder said it was a mystery to him what would happen to his mural panels.

It’s highly unlikely they will end up where Taylor’s labor history mural has — stuck in storage and the subject of a lawsuit before a federal judge.

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