“Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be.” That’s what the sign said when you crossed over the Piscatiqua River bridge into Maine starting in 1987. And we’ll be the first to say that there’s a big kernel of truth to that sentiment. Then along came Gov. LePage, who stamped “Open for business” onto the greeting, a nod to the Chamber of Commerce, and declared war on social spending, immigrant families, public education and health, trade unions, the environment and just plain decency. Mainers got a two-term preview of Trump’s one-term administration. Gov. Mills tossed out LePage’s loyalty pledge to the 1 percent (a step in the right direction), but replaced “the way life should be” sign with “Maine: Welcome Home.” Now like most honest liberal reforms, there are two sides to the coin.

Heads. Removing LePage’s personal business card from the Mile Marker 1 was as welcome as Twitter banning Trump. You still know he’s out there, but you don’t have to look at him every day. And putting up the Welcome Home sign represented a good-faith gesture to challenge the sometimes ungenerous view of who gets to call themselves a “real” Mainer. Marshall Dodge poked fun at “people from away” with wit and generosity of spirit in a celebration of a working-class ethos of modesty, community, and labor. The Way Life Should Be meant that you didn’t sell your neighbors down the river to out-of-state Richie Rich summer people. But the future of our state will depend on opening our arms and celebrating New Mainers’ cultural, linguistic, and political contributions. We bet Marshall would agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

Tails. Gov. Mills’s Welcome Home sign and The Way Life Should Be (thankfully, her administration quickly backtracked on its decision to retire it) also assume competition and exclusion, although this has too often gone unnoticed. Alongside a refreshing anti-racist and pro-immigrant sentiment, the Welcome Home message is also a call (paradoxically) for Maine to compete on an “open for business” playing field with other states and, as part of the nation as a whole, with other countries. Keeping more young people at home, welcoming white-collar remote employees and professionals (post-Covid), and attracting immigrant workers (both blue and white collar) from around the world sits side by side with Mills’s commitment to keeping business taxes low, public and private-sector unions in their place, and funding an expensive and unaccountable prison and police system. Pine and Roses happily adds our voice to the welcoming party, but we will insist that our home be built on and run by the rules and expectations set by the majority of ordinary people, and not by the 1 percent … be they Old Maine Moneybags or Outta Staters.

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As for The Way Life Should Be, there’s no getting around the fact that there’s been far too many times, and far too many people for whom, reality has made a mockery of this ideal. And this was as true from the start as it is today. “Maine” is stolen land. Robbed through murder and deception from the Wabanaki peoples. To this day, Maine’s Indigenous people are not allowed to live the way they believe life should be. Women still earn 83 cents to the dollar compared to men and more than 20,000 women per year call domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines (a persistent deadly threat that Gov. Mills movingly addressed herself just last week). Immigrant workers face the threat of abduction from ICE, economic hardship, the denigration of their home languages, and insufficient public school funding for ELL programs. Unions in Maine have taken it on the chin as well. In 1954, 35 percent of Maine workers belonged to a union, falling to just 11 percent a few years ago, before ticking up to 14 percent today. So it’s not surprising that 15 percent of white children, 44 percent of Indigenous children, and 46 percent of Black children are living in poverty. Meanwhile, Maine police jail Black people at alarmingly disproportionate rates, while enjoying near perfect impunity behind the blue wall of silence. Life has never really been, and can never be, the way it should be until Black Lives Matter in Maine. 

Pine and Roses is an activist editorial collective which aims to amplify the voices of the working class and oppressed peoples. We will report on the most important issues facing Mainers, provide visibility to ongoing struggles stifled (despite the best efforts of dedicated reporters and journalists) by corporate control over mainstream news outlets, and serve as a platform for trade union and social and eco-justice organizers. We are socialists dedicated to highlighting practical solutions to our people’s problems. Simple things like supporting nurses and museum workers organizing unions, and supporting Bath Iron Workers on strike. Simple things like defunding the police and making Maine’s power grid a public entity. Simple things like taxing the rich to pay for public education and health care. Simple things like building solidarity between everyone in Maine who wants to make our home a better place. Everyone who wants to fight for a life the way it should be. Not for the few, but for the many. 

And Maine is no stranger to the fight for social justice. EqualityMaine, one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the state, was founded in 1984 after Charlie Howard was murdered for being gay in Bangor, Maine. Organizations and communities dedicated to protecting and caring for LGBTQ Mainers paved the way for Maine to become one of the first of three states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote in 2012. We hold true that part of being a Mainer includes uplifting the LGBTQ community, and fighting against the injustices faced by LGBTQ Mainers.

What about our name? In 1912, tens of thousands of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts struck for three months. They spoke dozens of languages and elected socialists and anarchists from among their ranks and beyond to lead their struggle. They demanded Bread and Roses. They wanted a good union contract with fair wages and working conditions, that is, they wanted bread. But they also wanted a life worth living, a dignified home for themselves and their children, that is, they wanted roses, too. With a Maine twist and a tip of the hat, we are Pine and Roses

Write for us! We welcome your ideas and reports about what your local community is doing to stand up and fight for working class and marginalized Mainers. No struggle is too big or small. Spread the news! Share Pine and Roses with friends, family, co-workers, and classmates by word of mouth and by social media. Donate and send us pictures, videos, and poetry! We won’t get anywhere without you, but we think you might need a hand as well. Get in touch with us at pineandrosesme@gmail.com.

Yours in Solidarity,

Pine and Roses 

PineandRoses.org is dedicated to building solidarity with working-class, feminist, anti-racist, indigenous, ecological, immigrant, LGTBQ, housing, and education struggles across the state of Maine from Kittery to Calais, from Madawaska to Rumford. We're socialists fighting to make Maine life the way it should be.