Thursday, March 01, 2007

A New Weapon in the Class Struggle

The Inflatable Cockroach

New Yorker January 15:

The giant standing cockroach in question was spotted last week in front of an apartment building on Eighty-third Street, just east of Madison Avenue. It was twelve feet tall and hideous, its tentacles waving in the breeze. It was also—on closer, but not too close, inspection—fake. It was an inflatable cockroach.

. . .

This Upper East Side specimen, worn and dusty, was the property, for the moment, of a small cadre of organizers from Local 78, a hazardous-materials removers’ union. “This is not our cockroach, to be honest,” Eli Kent, one of the organizers, said last week. Local 78 had borrowed it from Local 12A, which had purchased two of them from Big Sky Balloons, an Illinois outfit that makes the rats, along with assorted other rabble-rousing inflatables, such as skunks, fat cats, and greedy pigs. Since December 14th, Local 78’s organizers had been setting it up on weekday mornings outside the apartment building (some days they brought a rat or a gorilla instead) to call attention to a tenant there who had apparently hired non-union workers on an asbestos-removal job at a building downtown.

The New York Times January 17:

All of which helps explain why Mr. Boulud, 51, cannot grasp why a group of restaurant-worker advocates keep showing up outside Daniel with a 12-foot inflatable cockroach, singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting that he is a racist.

“Racism is a vicious charge,” Mr. Boulud said in an interview. “It is too easy to accuse someone of that, and it is very hard to defend yourself.”

And yet Mr. Boulud is being forced to do just that. In December, seven current and former employees filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of discrimination. Similar charges against Mr. Boulud are before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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