MARC CHASE: Inflatable rats don't bring home the bacon

2013-07-25T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Inflatable rats don't bring home the baconBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com

The polls are in on the massive inflatable rats visible last week from a construction site on Broadway in Crown Point.

The rats -- and the union laborers who were doing anything but laboring at the base of these plastic monstrosities -- garnered a mix of reactions from my highly scientific poll of friends and Facebook followers last week.

Some found the rats funny, some ridiculous. My 10-year-old twin sons think the giant faux rodents are "super-cool." But nearly everyone I spoke with agreed these rats really don't help many people take labor unions seriously.

It's really a commentary on how far unions have fallen in their effectiveness and stature.

Don't get me wrong, all you hard-working union laborers, electricians and so forth. Many of you are the industrial life-blood of the region. It's your union hierarchy and structure -- or rather the deterioration of it -- to which I take issue.

You see these ballooned, cartoonish rodents -- which must stand about 15 feet tall by guess, not actual measurement -- popping up all over the place these days. Labor unions use them to grab attention at work sites they picket, claiming some wrong or slight against organized labor.

Anyone familiar with U.S. history knows of the importance organized labor played in cleaning up unjust and unsafe working conditions in factories, mills and other work sites in our industrial past. But ask the union workers now sitting at home after the big BP Whiting expansion project wind-down if unions are really helping them bring home the bacon. How many of these skilled laborers are not working because the union told them it's "their turn to sit?"

I know a number of union workers itching to get back to work. Some are talented enough they could probably do so in reasonably short order, but the workers don't want to rock the boat.

Rather than working, some of them are probably sitting next to large inflatable rats -- at the behest of their leadership -- picketing job sites that went with lower-cost, non-union construction bidders. The rules of capitalism, freedom and prosperity are just fine when unions are winning contracts. But if underbid, they like to change the rules.

What's really sad is the same groups pushing union members to sit at the base of inflatable rats in highway easements lead many of our politicians around by the nose. Labor unions wield massive amounts of campaign cash coveted by politicians with price tags on their collars.

Or maybe it's just the power of the large inflatable rats. They mesmerize some children and scare the bejesus out of others. Maybe some of our government leaders have fallen victim to the same spell.

If that's the case, someone needs to tell them the truth: the inflatable rats, much like some modern unions, are plastic and inflated with a lot of hot air.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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