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Scabby, the Chicago-born giant inflatable protest rat, spared by National Labor Relations Board

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

“The potential infringement of a union’s First Amendment rights precludes the board from finding that the banners and inflatable rat in these circumstances violate (the National Labor Relations Act),” Biden-appointed NLRB Chairman Lauren McFerran said in the ruling.

A Lippert spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

From its commercial inception, the official Scabby has been made by Big Sky Balloons, run by husband-and-wife owners Mike and Peggy O’Connor. Rats range in size from 6 feet to 25 feet, and in price from about $2,600 to $9,300 each.

The O’Connors were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Big Sky’s Scabby was commissioned in 1990 by the District Council 1 of the International Union of Bricklayers in Elmhurst. But Operating Engineers Local 150 claims it came up with the name Scabby in a 1989 contest for an early version of the protest rat it created for picket lines.

 

Ed Maher, spokesman for Local 150, said the case against Scabby was a “witch hunt” by the NLRB’s previous general counsel, and Wednesday’s ruling a “clear-cut” First Amendment victory for unions that employ the rat balloon to make their case against alleged unfair hiring practices.

As the union that arguably birthed Scabby, the balloon rat’s exoneration is that much sweeter, Maher said.

“I’m very, very pleased that justice has been done for Scabby,” Maher said.

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