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Scabby the Rat Lives!

The NLRB has ruled that Scabby and other inflatables do not violate the National Labor Relations Act

Brian Young's picture
Jul 23, 2021

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of inflating Scabby. In a reversal from the Trump board which seemed dead set on defeating the staple of union protests and strikes, the board has ruled that an Indiana union had the right to display a 12-foot inflatable rat and inflammatory banners outside a trade show in order to boycott a business that worked with another company involved in a labor dispute.

In a 3-1 decision, the board ruled that the use of Scabby and other inflatables, as well as the use of inflammatory banners, did not violate the National Labor Relation Act’s ban on threatening or coercive conduct during union pickets and boycotts.

In the majority decision which was written by NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran, a Democrat, the board said that the potential infringement of a union's free-speech right precluded a finding that banners and inflatable rats were illegal.

The case was brought against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) after they began picketing a trade show as part of their campaign against Lippert Components which makes components for mobile homes. The company and their lawyers at Jones Day filed a complaint against the union claiming that the use of Scabby and banners reading "Shame on Lippert Components Inc for harboring rat contractors" and "OSHA Found Safety Violations Against MacAllister Machinery, Inc" violated the NLRA. They filed these complaints in 2018.

The board's decision upheld an Obama-era rule that said unions could use banners and inflatable figures while engaging in “secondary boycotts” of companies that did business with other companies that employers their members.

The case was used by Trump’s former General Counsel Peter Robb to argue that the use of Scabby and other inflatables should be illegal because they are expressly designed to intimidate and coerce. However, Robb was fired by President Biden on Day 1 and the new general counsel switched positions to support Scabby. Ironically a new permanent General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo was confirmed by the Senate to take over the position on Wednesday, the same day the board was issuing their decision.


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