The Obama National Labor Relations Board continues its movement left by reversing years of cases with regard to the use of giant inflatable rats in picketing situations. For years since unions popularized the use of rats as an emblem of non-union “scab” employers, unions have actively used this symbol in leaflets, in costumes on picket lines, and most popularly, in the form of giant 16-foot tall inflatable balloons meant to advise the public of the presence of a labor dispute. Employers and their attorneys, including those from this law firm, have argued successfully that these inflatable rats constitute “signal” pickets which are subject to the same secondary boycott rules as live pickets. The advantage of such a position is that the inflatable rats therefore have to conform to secondary boycott rules, including a requirement that they be placed in front of or near gates reserved for the picketed company, as well as a requirement that they can only appear when the picketed company is present at the jobsite. All this was recently changed by the Board in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 15, 356 NLRB No. 162 (2011).
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