Unions should think twice before inflating menacing rat balloons in New Jersey. The inflatable rat, long known as a symbol of protest against nonunion labor, has received a serious blow from New Jersey courts. In two recent cases, courts concluded rat balloons are not always protected speech under the First Amendment, nor are municipal ordinances banning sign balloons preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The news gets better for employers: Unions can be stopped from installing rat balloons and protesting at the company owner’s home when the residence has nothing to do with the labor dispute.
The Lawrence Township case
Wayne DeAngelo, a senior official of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), was slapped with a fine and court costs after he directed the IBEW to erect a rat balloon in front of Gold’s Gym in Lawrence Township. Union pickets then blocked customers’ access to the gym.
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