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Scabby Under Threat: National Labor Relations Board Tries To Make Union Protest Rat Illegal

Scabby originated in Illinois during the early 1990s.

Balloon rats, both a fixture on the streets of New York City and a symbol of union protests across the United States, could soon be forced to scamper underground.

The National Labor Relations Board, a five-member independent agency of the federal government that is currently Republican-controlled, is ramping up efforts to eradicate the inflatable vermin, The New York Times reports.

The NLRB is trying to argue, through multiple cases around the country, that the blow-up creature, known as "Scabby the Rat," and similar inflatables amount to illegal picketing.

NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, an appointee of President Donald Trump, claimed in a brief two weeks ago in Philadelphia court that the use of two Scabby the Rats in a protest outside a hotel was “unlawful coercion."

On Staten Island, the NLRB has tried to stop the use of inflatable rats and cockroaches in construction union protests at supermarkets in the borough. The request was knocked back by a judge, but the case is continuing, per the Times.

Last year, Robb wrote in a memo that the use of an obese, inflatable cat at a protest in Chicago was illegal, Gothamist reported earlier this week. During the Obama administration, NLRB judges ruled at least three times that using inflatables like Scabby was legal — as long as it wasn’t moving and didn’t block an entrance.

Some union members are attempting to claw back against the NLRB’s move on Scabby’s behalf, saying it is a valuable tool to raise awareness of their plight.

“If you put up a balloon, if you put up something large and visible, then people will wonder what’s going on,” Jerry Gozdyra, an organizer with Local 1 of the Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers in New York, told the Times. “And they will ask questions, and I have an opportunity to educate the public.”