Fulfilling its threatened assault on a giant inflatable prop deployed by labor unions to publicly embarrass employers and those who do business with them, the National Labor Relations Board has finally taken aim. But will they pull the trigger?
Called Scabby the Rat, he (or is it she?) is available for rent in various colors and sizes from a firm in the Midwest. He also has been ensnarled in controversy and litigation over the 30-plus years plus years he has stood rampant in the public eye.
Legal actions have ranged from employers asserting the rodential displays are illegal assaults on secondary businesses, to First Amendment-based legal defenses mounted by unions against efforts by local governments to rid their communities of the rats and similar displays on public property and rights-of-way for both safety and aesthetic reasons.
Last year, one of the most recent cases made it all the way to a federal appeals court and attracted the attention of the NLRB’s famously rat-hating General Counsel Peter Robb. (AA, 7-15-19, P. 4).
In early November, the board asked for public briefs and comments on a case brought before it that seeks deflation of the union symbol, along with similarly oversized banners at a worksite.
Specifically, the board majority wants to know if the NLRB should modify or overrule existing precedent regarding its standard for determining what non-picketing conduct is otherwise unlawfully coercive, and what should the standard be?
“Under existing precedent, such displays outside neutral employers’ facilities, even when accompanied by requests that the public not patronize the neutral employer, have been determined to be lawful,” note attorneys for the Jackson Lewis law firm.