The National Labor Relations Board found on Thursday that an Illinois operators’ union hadn’t violated federal law by displaying a 12-foot tall inflatable figure known as Scabby the Rat to protest the actions of a neutral employer.
In a 3-1 decision, the NLRB found that the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, based in Countryside, Illinois, was within its rights when it inflated Scabby outside an Illinois trade show organized by an RV manufacturer. Alongside Scabby, the union hung banners protesting a firm it had a dispute with and another neutral company, Indiana-based Lippert Components.
Peter Robb, NLRB general counsel under former President Donald Trump, had argued that the use of figures like Scabby was “unlawfully coercive” and had sought to overturn precedent protecting such displays. President Joe Biden fired and replaced Robb after he had taken office.
A majority of board members, however, ultimately agreed that restricting the union’s use of Scabby could amount to a First Amendment violation and would also run afoul of NRLB precedent. Board member William Emanuel dissented, arguing that the display violated the National Labor Relations Act.