The federal government has over the years taken a vested interest in promoting the arts, seeding various projects and grants throughout the country. Some of the displays are a tribute to the history of the country, such as a mural that was until a month ago prominently on display in the Maine Department of Labor’s state headquarters.
That was before Governor Paul LaPage demanded the mural be removed.
LaPage’s order, which was made at the height of the labor protests in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights, embodied the GOP’s feelings about unions — break them primarily by breaking their spirits, and damn the long-term ramifications. The mural in question, which depicted moments in labor ranging from union strikes to Rosie the Riveter, was deemed too biased towards workers according to the Governor, who ordered it be taken off display. Now, the federal department responsible for providing funding for the work is asking for their money back.
The [Labor Department] grant funded a public project, but “we understand, however, that the mural is no longer on display in your headquarters,” said Gay Gilbert, administrator of the U.S. Office of Unemployment Insurance, in a Monday letter to Maine’s acting labor commissioner. “Thus, it is no longer being used for an administrative purpose permitted by the Reed Act. Accordingly…the state must…return to its UTF [Unemployment Trust Fund] account the amount of the Reed Act funds represented by the mural.”
In all, that might end up amounting to far more than $60,000. The state would have to repay the 63.8 percent contribution that came from the federal government — $38,280 — as well as 63.8 percent of the fair-market value of the mural.
The only other option, Gilbert said, would be that the state department “could again display the mural in its headquarters or in another state employment security building.”
In some ways, it’s the perfect symbol of the struggle between the labor movement and the Tea Party leaders — governors are so interested in scoring points trying to crush labor that they don’t even consider the long term financial ramification of their actions.