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January 2021 Light at the End of the Tunnel

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NLRB Sides with Local 150, Protecting Scabby the Rat Again!

On October 16, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Sorg-Graves sided with Local 150 in a case involving Maglish Plumbing, Heating and Electric that attracted national attention and carried heavy implications for the future use of Scabby the Rat.

At issue was Local 150’s use of a 12-foot Scabby the Rat and a banner in front of a Maglish jobsite in Valparaiso, where work was being performed by Davis & Son Excavation, who Local 150 is striking for Unfair Labor Practices. Local 150’s banner read “Shame on Maglish for Harboring Rat Contractors.”

This is one of several cases nationwide where NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb has recently intervened in an effort to infringe upon the First Amendment protections that Scabby has won in courtrooms across the country over the past 18 years.  The NLRB sided with Local 150 against Robb in a similar case involving Lippert Components, which was decided in July.

Robb, who was appointed by President Trump, claims that the use of Scabby is coercive and tantamount to picketing. Robb seeks to limit the use of Scabby and open the door to companies being able to claim financial damages against unions who conduct informational demonstrations. To be successful, Robb would have had to upend volumes of NLRB and federal precedent that have protected the use of inflatable rats as an expression of free speech.

Sorg-Graves was not persuaded, finding that Local 150’s use of Scabby the Rat was not coercive, not a signal picket, and not tantamount to picketing. In her decision (read here), she listed the reasons before dismissing the complaint in its entirety.

“We’ve defended Scabby the Rat since his first trip to federal court in 2001,” said Local 150 President-Business Manager James M. Sweeney, “and we will never back down from an attack on the rights of workers to peacefully protest or engage with the public. We are pleased by the dismissal of this complaint but also certain that Scabby will be targeted again by those who seek to weaken the hand of working men and women.”

This image from 1989 shows the very first inflatable rat, which was named “Scabby” by Local 150 member Lou Mahieu.

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