Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, November 21, 2021

It’s a common enough sighting on the streets of New York: An oversized inflatable gray rat, positioned in front of some business or other that’s not giving its unionized workers a fair shake. Little did I know that this symbol of labor unrest is 20 years old:

The vinyl vermin quietly marked their 20th birthday this year. The folks at Illinois-based Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights, creators of the inflatables, made their first rat for a Chicago bricklayers union in 1990.

Business was soon blowing up — the rats became an instant, unlikely symbol of corporate greed and anti-union work sites.

The company — a nonunion shop, by the way — says the majority of its business is done on the East Coast. The rats range in height from a relatively small 6-footer to the super-sized 25-footer. The costs can run upward of $8,000.

I haven’t walked past one of these strike mascots lately, but next time I do, I’ll acknowledge the anniversary by leaving a hunk of birthday cheese (signified by a candle stuck in the middle) at its feet. It’s not as good as not patronizing the offending business, but it’s really more about the symbol of protest, rather than the protest itself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/21/2010 09:22pm
Category: Business, Creative, History
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