Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The inflatable rubber rat, bucktoothed bane of strikebreakers and emblem of union wrath, may be headed for retirement. The National Labor Relations Board is now considering a case that could make it harder to employ one on a picket line.
Inflatable rubber rats have become common at labor demonstrations, including this one at a construction project using nonunion labor in Midtown Manhattan in 1998.
At issue in the case is whether the rat is the equivalent of picketing, which can be restricted under federal law, or a form of free speech, which enjoys far fewer limitations. The case, which was filed three years ago, is slowly percolating through the system, but the labor board is poised to make a ruling. If it decides the rat is, indeed, a form of picketing, it could have a chilling effect on its use.
Personally, I find the little guy kinda cute... in a fierce NYC rat sort of way.