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Trump NLRB Counsel Wants to Ban ‘Scabby the Rat’

February 2, 2019

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

WASHINGTON—National Labor Relations Board general counsel Peter Robb is desperately seeking a legalnlrb justification to ban “Scabby,” the giant inflatable rat unions use to picket employers accused of unfair labor practices. Robb “hates the rat,” a senior NLRB official who asked not to be left anonymous told Bloomberg Law, and “wants to find it unlawful to picket, strike, or handbill with the rat present.” Both courts and the NLRB have held that displaying the inflatable rodent is First Amendment-protected speech, and acceptable within the narrower standards of labor law. But in December, the NLRB asked a federal judge in Illinois to issue an injunction to stop International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 from using the rat to picket construction sites that hired an excavation contractor that refused to recognize the union. The suit alleges that accusing the company’s customers of “harboring rat contractors” amounted to “coercion.” The NLRB lawyers argued that while this kind of picketing is currently legal, the cases that established that precedent “should be overruled.” California labor lawyer David Rosenfeld said he believed that argument would “be dead on First Amendment grounds”—ironically, because businesses have “weaponized” free speech to reduce regulations. Read more

February 2, 2019

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