The union inflatable rat balloon is regularly in the news and maintains cult status among people who follow construction labor issues. It has even earned its own Wikipedia entry. Allegedly developed 22 years ago by a company near Chicago, the inflatable rat has been a symbol long used by construction unions to bug (and sometimes delight) Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and its member companies in California and across the country.
I was dismayed today to see that a construction union apparently lent Scabby to a different crowd – the Occupy Wall Street movement in San Francisco. An inflatable rat balloon was on display on Monday, April 24 and today at a multi-day protest in San Francisco outside the meeting of the Wells Fargo annual shareholder meeting.
The photo at this link was the lead on today’s “Featured Photo Gallery” of San Francisco’s KGO Channel 7 News web site: Protesters at Wells Fargo Shareholders Meeting – Photo 2 of 8.
I was unable to determine using the web which union actually owned the rat, although it is mentioned in numerous blogs and news articles, including this from the Los Angeles Times: Protesters Disrupt Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting – April 25, 2012
Any Wells Fargo executive or major shareholder who saw this rat might be confused about what message it’s sending to bankers. Notice the rat is wearing an orange construction vest and wears a hard hat that says “Safety Last.”
I suspect a construction union in Northern California allowed its long-recognized symbol of opposition to the Merit Shop to be borrowed for a few days for a protest of the business practices of one of the biggest banks in the United States. Apparently it’s too pedestrian in this day and age to limit the job of rat balloons to the harrassment of family-owned contractors performing tenant improvements at chain restaurants and budget hotels in obscure Bay Area suburban towns.
Keeping an inflatable rat (often costing several thousand dollars) from experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) is still a job best reserved for the professional union tradesman. As you can see in this Reuters photo, not all went well with the anti-ABC rat turned anti-Wall Street rat.