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Scabby the Rat’s Presence at Union Protests OK, NLRB Says Twice

Aug. 27, 2021, 11:10 PM

The National Labor Relations Board signed off on two unions using Scabby the Rat balloons at labor protests, following its recent ruling that rejected an effort by the agency’s Trump-era general counsel to outlaw the giant, fanged, inflatable rodent.

The NLRB on Friday dismissed unfair labor practice charges against the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 in separate cases. The board last month cleared Local 150 of charges in another Scabby case.

The two rulings hammer home that July decision reaffirming existing precedent that permits unions to display Scabby at demonstrations at businesses that don’t employ those unions’ workers. Former General Counsel Peter Robb had argued featuring the rat balloon at such secondary protests is an unlawful attempt to threaten and coerce neutral parties. President Joe Biden fired Robb, a Trump administration appointee, immediately upon taking office in January.

A three-member panel of Chair Lauren McFerran, Democrat, and Republican members John Ring and Marvin Kaplan decided the cases Friday. Member William Emanuel, a Republican who dissented in the July Scabby decision and would have outlawed the rat, didn’t participate in either case. Emanuel’s term as a board member expired Friday.

The Local 98 case stems from Scabby appearing at labor demonstrations at a hotel in Philadelphia that was using nonunion workers. In the Local 150 case, the union featured the inflatable rat at a protest near a business that had contracted with an excavating company that had a dispute with Local 150. Both businesses had objected to the big, red-eyed rodent’s presence.

Local 98’s lawyer, William Josem of Cleary, Josem & Trigiani LLP, and Local 150 attorney Charles Kiser didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cases are Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Local 98, N.L.R.B., Case 04-CC-223346, decision 8/27/21 and Int’l Union of Operating Eng’rs Local 150, N.L.R.B., Case 25-CC-230368, decision 8/27/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at riafolla@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com