A union’s inflatable rat is an often used propaganda piece meant to intimidate non-union companies and drive non-union companies into either agree to sign a union contract or go out of business because of negative publicity. Here’s a picture of the rat I’m talking about:
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do if this creature shows up at your workplace. Historically, rats were used exclusively in the construction arena to let everyone know that non-union labor was on the job site. The National Labor Relations Board has routinely held that rats are a permissive way of signal picketing, meaning when the rat shows up, union workers walk off the job site. Frequently, the rats are put in parking spaces on the road and a couple of union workers feed the meter all day. For a picture of what that looks like, click here.
The best thing for a company owner to do is to make a joke out of the rat. Like with any other type of bully, if they’re not getting a reaction from what they’re bullying, they’ll move on. Don’t bother calling the police – they won’t get involved unless you are successful in getting an injunction, which is pretty much impossible to do. I have heard the argument that on a very windy day, the rat could become a safety hazard, akin to an untethered Macy’s Parade Balloon.
The rat just won another round of litigation, this time in New Jersey where NJ Supreme Court ruled that the rat is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. In that case, the rat showed up at a health club’s grand opening because the club did not employ unionized workers to build the club.
Ironically, union rats are made by a non-union company! Big Sky Balloon and Searchlights in Chicago makes a few different types of rats, a “greedy pig,” “cockroach,” “skunk,” and a “corporate fat cat” strangling a construction worker. Click here to look at those balloons.