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Chicago Carpenters Scabby the Rat
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Scabby The Rat Gets a Reprieve

In a motion released earlier this month by the National Labor Relations Board, Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB’s new acting general counsel, withdrew a complaint that his predecessor, Peter Robb, had issued against the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 over the union’s deployment of a 12-foot Scabby in its dispute with an RV company. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters is involved in a similar case involving the use of Scabby to protest construction of a food hall in downtown Chicago.

Robb had claimed that Scabby’s presence was so intimidating that it could coerce third parties that have nothing to do with the spat, such as the RV company’s contractors. That would make it an illegal “secondary boycott,” Robb argued. But Ohr, recently appointed by President Biden, said the complaint against Local 150 for using Scabby “undermines current Board law and is not in the public interest.” The union’s actions were legal, Ohr said, and pursuing the case would amount to “a waste of valuable Agency resources.”

Scabby’s case was one of many actions by Robb that unions viewed as a gift to employers and a betrayal of workers. The Service Employees International Union lobbied the Biden administration to immediately oust Robb, even though Robb had 10 months left at the board in a four-year, Senate-confirmed term, saying Robb was a “uniquely destructive figure” in labor relations.

Shortly after his inauguration, Biden asked Robb to submit his resignation. When he declined, the president fired him. The AFL-CIO labor federation, which includes 55 unions, called Robb’s dismissal “the first step toward giving workers a fair shot again.”

Biden named Ohr as the acting general counsel the following week.

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