With help of Scabby the Rat, labor union protests Princeton Public Schools contractor not using local workers for renovation project

Scabby the Rat greets drivers on Valley Road in Princeton. Photo: Luca and Milla Petrecca.

Drive by the administration building for the Princeton Public Schools and it’s hard not to miss the giant inflatable rat sitting on top of a pickup truck, its arms extended and its teeth jutting out.

The local chapter of the Laborers’ International Union of North America has placed the giant rat on Valley Road in Princeton to protest a contractor’s use of non-local, non-union labor for a renovation project at Princeton High School.

According to the union, contractor DCG Construction is not using local workers for demolition and concrete work at Princeton High School. The work is part of the recent bond referendum. The union argues that the district could make hiring union workers a requirement in contracts.

School district officials declined to comment when asked about the rat and the union’s complaint on Wednesday. A flyer being distributed by the union asks people to contact school district officials to express their concerns about the district’s contractor not using local union labor.

The inflatable rat, known as Scabby the Rat, is used to call public attention to companies employing non-union labor. The rodent is used by unions around the country during demonstrations as a sign of opposition against non-union contractors and the companies that hire those contractors.

Under President Trump, the National Labor Relations Board tried to deflate Scabby the Rat, arguing that such labor protests are not protected under the First Amendment. Under the Obama Administration, the board said such protests were protected.

Scabby the Rat has been on Valley Road in Princeton for a few days now. Photo: Luca and Milla Petrecca.
Scabby the Rat at the Valley Road administration building. Photo: Luca and Milla Petrecca.
The view from Valley Road. Photo: Luca and Milla Petrecca.
The flyer being distributed by union members in front of the Valley Road administration building. Photo: Luca and Milla Petrecca.


  1. I am ok with workers organizing themselves into unions to negotiate for better wages & benefits. I also believe there is often better access to jobs and income for the less-connected via non-union workplaces.

    As a homeowner in Princeton, I am indifferent when I hire contractors (plumbers, electricians, etc.) to do work for me. Quality work, availability and yes, price are the priorities. Just guessing that my fellow Princeton homeowners and residents act similarly.

    I trust our duly elected school board and the leadership they hire to make good decisions towards maintenance and repair of our incredibly important school buildings. With an eye towards expenses, they do a darn good job and face many challenges to do what’s best for the students, teachers, parents and other district employees.

    The Laborer’s Union blow-up doll, and the pick-up truck that Dave Johnson and Edward Osborne have purchased with their union members’ dues, doesn’t bother me at all.

  2. Wow. dandmenny … You are anti-union. You are anti workers rights according to your comments here. Your comments here are not based in fact. The school buildings are actually this year less and less important since children are not being allowed to enter them. We do not trust our school board to hire and make good decisions with an eye towards expenses. Can you provide some factual examples that they have done this? They do not do a good job at what is best for students since the students are not even in the school buildings and the entire Valley Road complex.. WTF is that decaying buildings… millions of dollars of building and land sitting their rotting while you spit on workers right? … The wealthiest institution in the town (Princeton U) not paying any taxes… or anything toward our schools and bringing thousands back to our town while the children sit at home and cannot go to school? Everybody knows that the upper middle class Princeton Democrat is anti-union and thus, pro slavery which is coded here in the sugar coated language of lowest price. Slaveowners also cited lowest price in labor and frankly dandmenny you lean right into your own history as a slaveowner in these comments here which are anti-worker, and pro slavery.
    Can you please provide some examples of these great jobs held by non-slaveowners who are against worker rights…

  3. The main employers in the town do not use local labor. This is -contrary to what dandmenny says here -a problem.

  4. @Nancy It’s absolutely ridiculous to claim that anyone who is anti-union is pro-slavery. It’s this type of overheated rhetoric that is tearing up our country. Many workers have chosen not to form unions. I may disagree with their choice, but there are legitimate reasons why they have made it.

  5. We live in a very anti-union country, there is a war on unions and it went into high gear with the Reagan administration’s mass firing of the air traffic controllers. Much earlier the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 put another knife in the back of unions. The right to work (for less) states make it difficult to impossible to form unions. The billionaires who own Amazon and Walmart are rabidly anti-union and will fire anyone who even suggests forming a union at these businesses. The overall unionization rate for the US is about 10.1% while it is in the 50% to 60% range in the Scandinavian countries, (2018 figures from OECD stats). Germany not only has strong unions but it also has works councils in which ordinary workers have a seat on the boards of directors of the companies. That could never happen in the US. In the 1950s, the US unionization rate was in the 30% to 35% range.

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