'We need it more snarly'
October 24, 2019 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Scabby the Rat is a familiar feature on the sidewalks of New York (though its origins are in Chicago). But in recent months, the National Labor Relations Board is filing court briefs arguing that the rat constitutes "illegal picketing," reversing a long tradition under which the rat was recognized as protected free speech. Word on the street is: it's personal. What does Scabby think? Follow them on Twitter to keep up to date.

Order your own rat inflatables at Big Sky Balloons
posted by Miko (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Scabby the Rat is in Philadelphia, too! The unions are extra-mad about a building in mid-town, and managed to have no fewer than six of them out on a single day along three street frontages of the full-block building.

It looks like they had the 6 foot versions out, but I swear there's an absolutely enormous 25 foot version that shows up in town from time to time. Maybe that union wasn't part of the protest?
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:18 AM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


“A huge, menacing inflatable rat placed near a business entrance thus inherently conveys a threatening and coercive message that will restrain a person,” the brief stated.

Just so we're clear, we're talking about menacing balloons.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:35 AM on October 24, 2019 [27 favorites]


Wolverines!
posted by clavdivs at 11:38 AM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think it's a little ridiculous for a union to suggest that putting up a giant rat balloon * isn't a form of picketing.
I mean, the union buys them, stores them and deploys them in support of a labor dispute, how is that not picketing?
The key difference appears to be that you have to walk _through_ a picket line, but you can walk _around_ a protest inflatable?

Maybe that makes sense in isolation, but if a group is putting 12 foot high rats on either side of your entrances, it might be a distinction without a difference.

* whose meaning is apparently well known, though personally I've never heard of them until just now.
posted by madajb at 11:44 AM on October 24, 2019


The very concept that picketing could be considered illegal is offensive to me.
posted by Drumhellz at 11:51 AM on October 24, 2019 [56 favorites]


the rat is amazing bc SCABBY but also bc it is very helpful for me to be able to see from blocks away that i should go to a different store.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:54 AM on October 24, 2019 [17 favorites]


To make this extremely clear: the NLRB is arguing that Scabby shouldn't be considered free speech because it is effective.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:05 PM on October 24, 2019 [61 favorites]


Every time I see a Scabby (although I haven't seen one in the 5 years I've been in California) I kind of marveled that the powers that be & the fat cats in their tuxedos & cigars allow this kind of public impudence. I guess I was right to be surprised, of course we can't have nice things.
posted by bleep at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


Blagojevism on Twitter:

Broke: Scabby is an unlawful coercive picketing tactic

Woke: Scabby is protected by the First Amendment

Bespoke: per the principles of chaos magic, our own belief in Scabby has divinized him. He is now a wrathful rat-god who protects workers and destroys capitalism.
posted by larrybob at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2019 [36 favorites]


shouting aloud alone in my home abt clodius and the collegia now, thanks
posted by poffin boffin at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


They're playing loose and dirty with the words. Picketing is legal. Disruptive picketing (what they're characterizing as "illegal picketing") is illegal.

It's not legal to use force or threat of force to disrupt flow of traffic. And so yeah, if the pipeworker's union has some muscly guys posted at the job entrance with giant wrenches, that could be considered disruptive picketing.

But these are inflatable rats. They're meant to draw attention to the protest and shame the workplace. Not to threaten force. Yes, they're a form of picketing, which is itself a protected act under the first amendment. No, they're not "illegal picketing".
posted by explosion at 12:20 PM on October 24, 2019 [21 favorites]


Just so we're clear, we're talking about menacing balloons.

Just so we're clear, Trump -- a corrupt NYC real estate developer -- has appointed a General Counsel of the NLRB who is trying to criminalize the methods traditionally used by unions to protest unfair practices by corrupt NYC real estate developers. Color me shocked, shocked.
posted by The Bellman at 12:48 PM on October 24, 2019 [23 favorites]


I think it's a little ridiculous for a union to suggest that putting up a giant rat balloon * isn't a form of picketing.

As it turns out, picketing is specifically regulated and defined. Some forms of picketing are protected, some are not. That's why the NLRB is trying to get it out of the permissible category. Not that I'm in defense of this attack on Scabby, who is cute in a snarky way, but just to say that the definitions play a role in how this is ruled on.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


So, what sort of offering would be most pleasing to Scabby?
Incense?
Flowers?
Pizza?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


the blood of the bourgeoisie
posted by poffin boffin at 12:59 PM on October 24, 2019 [32 favorites]


I've always wondered if the Scabbies I've seen around New York are made by unionized companies.
posted by AJaffe at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


> the powers that be & the fat cats in their tuxedos & cigars allow this kind of public impudence

Conveniently, Big Sky Balloons makes a "corporate fat cat" (with an option to have it holding a construction worker and money bag in its fists) and a "corporate greedy pig."
posted by desuetude at 1:17 PM on October 24, 2019


> Scabby the Rat is in Philadelphia, too! The unions are extra-mad about a building in mid-town, and managed to have no fewer than six of them out on a single day along three street frontages of the full-block building

They've had one holding down the corner of 3rd and Spring Garden for the GoPuff headquarters for nearly a year now, too. I give it a little pat as I walk by it on the way to work every day.
posted by desuetude at 1:18 PM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


I just wanna know if Big Sky Balloons (the company that makes Scabby, and a few other union-protest-themed inflatables) is a union shop.
posted by egypturnash at 1:40 PM on October 24, 2019


Per this article, it is not, at least as of 2003.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:43 PM on October 24, 2019


Scabby could swallow Pizza Rat (and his pizza) in a single gulp. And I'd hate to see him in a fight with fabled mascot Gritty.

But maybe they could bypass a lot of the "illegal picketing" regulations if he weren't stationary. A self-driving platform to move him back and forth in the "approved picketing zone" would be legal, impressive and even more intimidating.

Of course, if Scabby comes out west, I can think of one Burbank-based media empire where he could scare the little red pants off a certain mascot mouse.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:45 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Scabby has been in Australia, particularly in support of the construction/mining/energy union CFMEU and the electrical union ETU, and true to form, generated legal backlash.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Maybe we need an annual holiday celebrating this kind of thing. Get out the big giant rodents and decorate them, sing songs, serve theme foods, have poetry competitions, etc.
posted by amtho at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


May 1st would probably work for that.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:25 PM on October 24, 2019 [11 favorites]


Reporting in from Chicago. It is indeed a union town, and we love Scabby. I was just talking to my coworkers about him the other day and called him "Scabbers" for like five minutes until I realized that's Harry Potter. Close though.

Currently I'm on strike with the teachers - apparently we had a Scabby outside of the Chicago Schools HQ the other day this week, but when I went there to picket today he was gone. Alas! Brought some good chants to the block though.

We do have a giant purple Mother Jones / suffragette inflatable that joins us on marches though. She's strapped to a wheeled pallet and pulled like a parade float. I'd imagine a rat could do the same if it had reason to.
posted by Wulfhere at 4:25 PM on October 24, 2019 [11 favorites]


I will say that Scabby is indeed very useful--I didn't know much about the trash unions and companies in my local area until I saw Scabby outside on the local trash places and it certainly made me look up the company!
posted by sperose at 6:29 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


I think it's a little ridiculous for a union to suggest that putting up a giant rat balloon * isn't a form of picketing.

A picket is a very specific form of labor action - it means members of THAT SHOP are out, usually on strike. If you see a line of people walking, you know not to cross it. But also - if there’s a picket and workers out, unless it’s a specific kind of strike, the boss can fire them all and replace them with scabs.

Scabby, however, falls under the same category as “informational leafleting”. Stationary, signs down, handing out flyers - not only legal, but can be done by members of other unions who are outraged, or to show that a shop has broken a contract.

This is particularly relevant for secondary targeting.
posted by corb at 6:45 PM on October 24, 2019 [9 favorites]


> Scabby could swallow Pizza Rat (and his pizza) in a single gulp. And I'd hate to see him in a fight with fabled mascot Gritty.

There's no way Scabby would fight a leftist icon.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:45 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


gritty would ride scabby into battle like hairy orange alexander on crusty bucephalus
posted by poffin boffin at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


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