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International Operating Engineer - Winter 2019

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The quarterly magazine of the International Union of Operating Engineers

Labor Notes National

Labor Notes National Labor Relations Board Targets ‘Scabby the Rat’ for Extinction [opposite page] The NLRB General Counsel seeks to limit the use of Scabby on peaceful demonstrations such as this one at the Algonquin Township Highway Department in Crystal Lake, Illinois. [left] The very first inflatable rat, designed and used by Local 150, based in Countryside, Illinois. The official notice of “Scabby” being selected as the name of Local 150’s inflatable rat. [below] Scabby is an important tool in communicating to the public when workers are being mistreated. [article & photos] Ed Maher, Local 150 THE WARRIOR FOR workers’ rights we lovingly know as ‘Scabby the Rat’ is always where we need him, but he presently needs a little bit of help himself. An attack against our friend Scabby is being coordinated by rat contractors, management lawyers, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb. In particular the efforts of Robb – formerly a management-side attorney – are reportedly highly personal, with Bloomberg quoting a source at the NLRB saying, “GC hates the rat.” He allegedly directed agency attorneys to revive a complaint that the NLRB regional office had already dismissed, made by an Illinois excavating contractor against IUOE Local 150. At issue is the use of Scabby outside of traditional picket settings, including bannering and other public demonstrations. It will take more than a personal vendetta to deflate Scabby, however. A steady stream of judgments over the past two decades have agreed that the use of Scabby the Rat is protected free speech under the First Amendment, so the NLRB will have to overturn settled law – including its own decisions - to advance its argument that the use of Scabby is “coercive” or a “signal picket.” The NLRB is asking a federal judge to classify Scabby as the same as a picket, and therefore subject to much harsher regulations—including federal court injunctions and damage lawsuits. In an ironic twist of fate, the judge hearing arguments over the NLRB’s injunction request is Judge Ruben Castillo, who wrote the very first decision designating ‘Scabby the Rat’ as a tool of free speech in 2001. In an era where Free Speech has been expanded in such Supreme Court decisions as Citizens United and Janus, this attempt to limit free speech that benefits workers is another example of the NLRB’s current general counsel tipping the scales to benefit businesses. Scabby is a child of the IUOE. He was born 31 years ago in Countryside, Illinois at Local 150’s organizing department. The inflatable rat was first used in 1988, and after a naming contest in the November 1988 edition of the Local 150 Engineer, was formally named Scabby. 14 INTERNATIONAL OPERATING ENGINEER WINTER 2019 15

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