BREWER, Maine – On Labor Day about 150 enthusiastic union members and supporters gathered at the Labor Temple here to dedicate a mural large enough to cover three outside walls of the headquarters building of the Bangor Central Labor Council and several union locals. Its subject is the history of Maine labor, the strikes and struggles, beginning with the Knights of Labor in the late 19th century.

The unionists also issused a call to intensify efforts to block unfair trade agreements.

About 50 members of various unions and the Food and Medicine Project of the Labor Council had worked on the mural for almost a year under the direction of head artist Jesse Cross. Labor historian Charlie Scontras helped with research for the project.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) was there, and after 28 years as a forklift operator at the Great Northern Mill in Millinocket, Me., he had a right to be. He reported that on arrival in Congress last year, he found that 306 of his colleagues were bankers, lawyers, or CEOs. The rest were “in business” except for himself and a handful of others.

Michaud held up a ballot sheet being circulated in Maine by the AFL-CIO. It calls for a “no” vote on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and a “yes” vote on the Maine Trade, Jobs, and Democracy Act. The latter is the title of proposed state legislation calling for the formation of a commission to evaluate the impact of “free trade” agreements that have been pushed by Washington.

According to Michaud, NAFTA and related trade agreements have caused the loss of 24,000 Maine jobs since 1994.

The main message of the day, however, was the importance of electing working people to political office. Right now there are not enough Mike Michauds in Congress. Who knows? As a pioneer, he may someday find himself in Brewer again, up on the wall mural there, rendered in paint.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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