Political Education

Meet Scabby

President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan is designed to create union construction jobs. The administration is very supportive of unionization efforts. We can expect that there will be employers who do not use union labor on some projects. 

The original meaning of the word ‘scab’ was a reference to diseases of the skin. By the early 1800s, the word evolved into an insult for workers who cross picket lines. During the anti-labor Reagan administration, labor organizers wanted a powerful symbol to use in labor actions against offending employers. This symbol would be used on picket lines to draw the public’s attention to a labor dispute and characterize the employer being picketed. 

Meet Scabby

Scabby was born in 1988. Scabby’s first incarnation was a rat costume worn by union organizers. The outfit proved to be too hot for the picket line. In  1990 organizers, Ken Lambert and Don Newton of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers commissioned the inflatable rat balloon. Scabby was designed to be a snarly ghastly looking rat with dark-rimmed red eyes, yellow buck sharp fangs, and stretched claws. 

Now you might think that a cartoon rat is silly and would not bother employers at all. Well, Scabby has intimidated employers to the point of filing a claim with the National Labor Relations Board. The National Labor Relations Board, responding to an employer’s 2010 complaint that the use of Scabby constitutes an unfair labor practice, ruled that the display of Scabby is symbolic. The board ruled that the balloon was similar to the bannering described in the 2010 decision of Eliason & Kanuth of Arizona, Inc.  

It did not involve confrontation, was stationery, did not block entrances, and did not result in threats to the public going into the hospital.

National Law Review

Scabby is so popular that he has his own social media presence. Check it out here:

Twitter: @ScabbyTheRat

Facebook: Scabby the Rat

Want your own Scabby? Click here.

The post-pandemic economy will bounce back with a boom in construction. The Biden administration will pass an infrastructure initiative. The tension between organized labor and some employers will remain high. We will be seeing more of Scabby.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to RoySmith at Wikipedia Commons for the image. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflatable_rat#/media/File:Union-rat.jpg

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