The NLRB may exterminate Scabby The Rat, and I have mixed feelings about that.


Yep, that’s me about eight years ago posing with my first-born and an inflatable rat.

His name is Scabby. The rat, that is. And he may be going away for good soon.

Who is Scabby The Rat?

According to Scabby The Rat’s Twitter profile — because, of course — Scabby was “born in Chicago ’90 to protest anti-union activities.” Sarah Jaffe and Molly Crabapple writing here at in 2013 profiled the history of Scabby The Rat. He was a popular critter; demand for Scabby spiked shortly after his birth in 1990:

From the first appearance, it took less than a year for other locals to want their own Scabbys. “The novelty spread like rats,” O’Connor [the owner of the company that created the first Scabby] joked. Big Sky sells about 100 rats a year, ranging from six feet to 30 feet tall, though their best sellers are 10, 12, and 15-footers. “We’ve sold the most to the East Coast, we’ve sold them also to California, sold them to New Mexico, sold them to places in Canada,” O’Connor said. “We’ll drive around to a snow-removal company and they’ve got a rat that we sold to somebody in New Jersey, and it’s like, ‘Wow, the rat came back.’ The different unions borrow them from one another, people will call us and say, ‘One of your rats is at the snow removal place.’ They just pop up.” 

Indeed, from Scabby, there spun off other variants such as “Fat Cat” and “Greedy Pig,” pictures of which you can find here. Here, in Philadelphia, IBEW Local 98 took it one step further with the Ratmobile.

But, I digress. We’re here to talk about Scabby’s possible demise.

Hassan A. Kanu writing here at Bloomberg Law broke the news. Here’s a snippet.

Courts and the National Labor Relations Board have issued rulings over three decades holding that the inflatables are permitted under federal labor laws or are symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. But the NLRB’s current general counsel, Peter Robb, has had enough of the rat—to the point that since April 2018 he’s been looking for a case he can use to exterminate it, according to sources familiar with his thinking.

“GC hates the rat,” a senior NLRB official who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Bloomberg Law. Robb “wants to find it unlawful to picket, strike or handbill with the rat present.”

Robb and the agency didn’t respond to requests for comment. NLRB Chairman John Ring also declined to comment.

Can they really do this to Scabby?

I don’t know.

But, it’s not as if this is the first discussion of Scabby’s demise. Indeed, according to the story, organized labor considered scrapping Scabby:

Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, said in a now-deleted tweet, “Meeting with our Presidents and state councils. Issued a call to retire the inflatable rat. It does not reflect our new value proposition.” 

One of the loudest [opponents] was Scabby the Rat himself, via [Twitter]. “’Value proposition?’ Here’s the proposition: treat workers fairly. Here’s the value: you get to do business,” he tweeted in response, the start of a stream of tweets quoting famed labor leaders and denouncing “MBA weasel-speak.”

My love-hate relationship with Scabby.

As a representative of management, I know that I’m supposed to be #TeamDeathToScabby.But, I’ll admit it. I get a kick out of seeing Scabby in the wild. I snap photos and, yes, I pose for pictures too. So, if Scabby goes the way of the dodo bird, a part of me is going to miss that silly rat.

Please don’t pull my management card.


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