National Labor Board Sides With Elkhart Union Organizers – And Their Giant Rat

Jul 22, 2021

An inflatable rat in Hackettstown, New Jersey, similar to the one used in an Elkhart demonstration.
Credit Erik Anderson / Wikimedia Commons

A federal labor board sided with an Indiana union Wednesday in a dispute over a display outside of a trade show in Elkhart. It signals government support for a classic labor protest symbol, known by many as Scabby the Rat.

In 2018, unionized workers in Indiana were outraged with a heavy machinery rental company over alleged safety violations. But they aimed their efforts at Lippert, an Elkhart-based RV supplier, for renting their machinery.

According to the board decision, the union erected a 12-foot inflatable rat, "replete with red eyes, fangs, and claws" and banners outside the RV trade show for four days, pressuring Lippert to stop renting machinery from that company.

Lippert complained to the National Labor Relations Board that this was an unfair labor practice. Now, after years of deliberation, the NLRB dismissed the case. It said the union’s tactics are constitutionally protected speech.

Unions feared use of large inflatables like Scabby the Rat would be banned under from former President Donald Trump's administration. This decision signals a win for union organizers under President Joe Biden.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.