Fed says unions have legal right to display giants inflatable rats during labor disputes
Federal regulators say union activists have the legal right to display giant inflatable rats outside companies during labor disputes.
The National Labor Relations Board says putting up a 16-foot-tall rat balloon is allowed even if the business is not directly involved in the conflict between the union and another employer.
The Carpenters union and other labor groups often use the giant rat as a form of street theater. The goal is to shame companies that hire outside contractors who refuse to use union workers or pay union-scale wages.
The case was closely watched by business groups who claim the giant rat is too coercive and confrontational. But the labor board says the rats are a form of symbolic speech that don’t interfere with business activity.
During the hearing, members discussed recent NLRB actions to expand the use of corporate campaigns, as well as the potential impact of the NLRB's recent complaint against The Boeing Company on the nation's workforce. The use of corporate campaigns can have a chilling effect on job creators, as well as threaten the livelihood of workers.
During his opening remarks, Rep. Roe emphasized the urgent need to oversee actions taken by the board. "We must remember the board does not operate in a vacuum,” Rep. Roe said. “It is an arm of the federal government, and its decisions govern virtually every private workplace in the nation. That is tremendous power that comes with a great responsibility to act on behalf of the public good. I am concerned the board has jettisoned this responsibility over the last two years in favor of an activist agenda designed to advance the cause of Big Labor over the rights of every day workers."
House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline also commented on the need for increased scrutiny of the NLRB’s actions, stating, “In this administration, I think we have an outrageous overreach of the board and I am doing what I can do to provide oversight to that board. It is very powerful. It is powerful beyond what we imagined it could be, and we need to exercise checks and balances."
The Chairman continued, "More to the point raised earlier, this Committee is authorized – indeed obligated – to conduct oversight of the agencies and entities within its purview and the actions those agencies and entities take. And, that is an obligation that we take seriously."