NLRB rules that large inflatable rat balloons are acceptable in union protests

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled on Thursday that labor unions should have the right to display 16-foot, rat-shaped balloons outside businesses with which they disagree.

The majority of the board decided that displaying a towering rat outside a hospital using non-union contractors, for example, does not have the same “coercive” effect as a traditional picket line. If displaying the rat balloon outside a business had been deemed “picketing,” unions wouldn’t be allowed to attack their target businesses’ credibility in such a way without the negative consequences of a strike, like wage loss. Such tactics have become a major weapon in union arsenals.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce labor policy expert Glenn Spencer told The Daily Caller the large inflatable rats may have a negative effect on companies and workers not involved with a labor conflict, ultimately negatively affecting job creation.

“While some people will see an inflatable rat as a sophomoric stunt, others will not,” Spencer said in an email. “This intimidation of customers could have a harmful impact on employers and workers who have nothing to do with an underlying labor dispute. Unfortunately it’s just one more example of how the NLRB seems at odds with the administration’s message of job creation and economic recovery.”

The scare tactics unions use, like displaying the large inflatable rats outside their target companies, are referred to in policy circles as “corporate campaigns.” Corporate campaigns happen when unions are trying to organize workforces by getting employers to sign “neutrality agreements,” which are basically legal promises that force an employer to allow organizers on their property to attempt to unionize workers without any company say. If companies don’t sign the neutrality agreements, unions will often hold large banners outside their businesses, show up at workers’ homes after-hours, attempt to discredit a company’s products or services and try, essentially, to smear the business’s reputation until it signs the agreement.

The NLRB is meant to be a neutral arbiter of disputes between employers, employees and labor unions but Republicans have accused the board of heavily favoring of labor unions.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, said the NLRB is imbalanced in favor of businesses under Republican presidents and tilts towards Big Labor when Democrats control the White House. Kline thinks the Obama administration has shifted the NLRB much further left than previous Democrats ever have before, though.

“Typically, when it’s a Republican administration, Democrats claim that workers’ rights are being denied,” Kline said during an Education and Workforce subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing on Thursday. “When it’s a Democrat’s administration, Republicans [do similar things.] When it’s a Republican administration, Democrats call for hearings on board members and I’ve complained about it. And, now, with this administration, I think we have an outrageous overreach of the Board.”

Conservative groups jumped at the rat balloon news. Workforce Fairness Institute spokesman Fred Wszolek said the NLRB’s allowance of rat balloons further signifies how the board has an activist agenda.

“The agenda pursued by President Obama’s labor board in support of job-killing policies that encourage union bosses to intimidate workers is appalling,” Wszolek said in an email to TheDC. “There is no mistaking that job creation is the American people’s top priority, and it is deeply unfortunate that our government is more committed to rewarding Big Labor than standing with job creators struggling through an extremely challenging economic period. The White House should understand very clearly that they will be held responsible for the actions of the individuals they have nominated and appointed to the National Labor Relations Board.”

UPDATE: Ironically, as LaborUnionReport.com points out, the company that makes the large inflatable rates for labor unions to display outside businesses is a non-union company.