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It’s a familiar sight on the streets of New York: an enormous, red-eyed, inflatable rat, the mascot for an upset union and a publicity stunt meant to shame offending contractors into action.In fact, there’s been a union rat outside the offices of Business Insider since last week. Two guys were out there this morning, handing out flyers and standing in the shadow of their ugly mascot.
When you see a rat outside a commercial building, chances are there’s a job going on inside that uses non-union workers, or “scabs.”
We talked to the representatives of the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local No. 1, New York, AFL-CIO, to see what they hope to accomplish and whether or not the rat helps their cause.
Q: What are you guys doing out here today?
The reason we’re out here today is the contractor doing masonry work on the building doesn’t have a collective bargaining agreement with our bricklayers local, and we want to make sure we get actual union guys to do the work and make sure the work is done properly by the union.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish by being here with the rat?
We’re informing the public what’s going on and hopefully we can get the contractor to put union guys on the job.
Q: Is the 257 Park Avenue South to blame?
It’s not necessarily the building, it’s the contractor that’s hired by the building to do the work. And the contractor needs to make sure that work being done in New York, especially downtown Manhattan having to do with masonry work or any other kind of construction is being done properly through the union.
Q: What’s your role in the union?
We are members of the union, and when we’re laid off and out of work this is what we do to make sure that other workers get put back to work.
Q: Does the rat help?
It does, people want to know what’s going on. It gives you curiosity, “Oh let me find out what’s going on.” We want people to know our issue and our fight.
The flyers being handed out by the representatives point the finger at AWR Group, an NYC contractor. The flyer calls for “basic human rights” and asks people to call 257 Park Avenue to complain.