Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rosa Scarcelli Headshot

War Against Workers and the Middle Class in Maine

Posted: Updated:
Print

Maine Governor Paul LePage is trying to whitewash history or turn a blind eye to it.

He's part of a new class of Republican governors who would rather pick fights than find practical solutions.

This week, just days before the 100th anniversary of the birth of the modern labor union and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York, he ordered that the Maine Department of Labor remove a mural that depicts important historical events in the state's labor history.

He also ordered that rooms at the Department of Labor be renamed. They currently honor Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and was FDR's Labor secretary, and Cesar Chavez, the legendary organizer, along with a host of others including a labor historian and a state lawmaker who championed child labor laws.

The move is the latest assault on working families and the middle-class in Maine.

The governor has proposed a number of changes to the pay and pension system for teachers and state workers. He's trying to punish working people who have had the audacity to organize, while specifically exempting his own pension from the cuts.

Like the situation in Wisconsin and around the country, this fight with Labor isn't about balancing budgets or reform.

It's about breaking one of the only forces -- unions -- willing to stand up to the special interests and big businesses.

And it's about funding massive tax cuts for multi-national corporations and millionaires on the backs of the middle class, teachers and state workers.

The worker is not the enemy of business, even though some politicians would like you to believe they are.

As a businesswoman with more than 100 employees, I know that my company's greatest assets are my employees. I can't be successful without them.

We work as partners for success.

The relationship between business and labor has changed dramatically in the last hundred years.

But that doesn't change the truth that workers in this country suffered - and died - in unsafe and unhealthy conditions until the Labor Movement leveled the playing field.

We can't ignore that past.

It was 100 years ago today that the modern labor movement was born from the ashes of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York.

One hundred forty-six workers who hadn't been allowed to unionize died because their work conditions were awful and they couldn't escape a fire. Many burned to death, while others jump out of windows to avoid the flames.

Without the Labor Movement, those same conditions would exist today.

Instead of finding answers, creating jobs and increasing opportunities for working families, this new group of Republican governors would rather pick a fight and throw red meat to their supporters.

Gov. LePage was elected with just 38 percent of the vote, and he's still playing to that crowd.

He's shown no interest in working to improve the economy, solve problems or help to expand opportunity.

When you help working families, that money goes right back into local businesses, where it does the most good and helps the economy grow.

Most states are still struggling to overcome the recession, and they have to change the way they do business. They have to be smarter.

But you can't attack working, middle-class families to pay for tax cuts for the millionaires and expect people to just go along with it.

It's not right. And it's not good for the economy.

Real leadership is about bringing people together to find practical and reasonable solutions.

It's not censoring art that depicts the history of the Labor Movement, and strong women who took a leadership role in making our country stronger.

Rosie the Riveter, Frances Perkins, they are all part of our history.

You can take them off the walls, but the memory won't be erased.

Business, and particularly small business, should have a strong voice in government. But Gov. LePage and other like-minded governor's aren't opening government up to them. Instead they are unnecessarily pitting businesses against the workers they depend upon.

The politics of division can only take you so far. Real economic success depends upon finding practical and reasonable solutions, and balancing the competing demands of society.

Open warfare on Labor and its history isn't good public policy. It's conquest.

Rosa Scarcelli is CEO of Stanford Management, an affordable housing provider in Maine and three other states, and a former Democratic candidate for governor. To see more, go to www.rosaformaine.com.