WARSAW — The presence of “Scabby” the inflatable rat near the Washington STEM Academy construction site has caused a local stir.
Ed Maher of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, who own “Scabby,” addressed statements Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert made earlier today expressing concerns over the safety of the protest and whether the inflatable is causing a visual obstruction.
“If there are individuals present any time the rat is inflated,” Maher said, “those individuals have never witnessed any kind of a traffic accident.”
He added that the Indiana Department of Transportation and Warsaw Police Department have both been to the site and did not feel placement of the inflatable was a danger.
“The vibe a couple of our members got from the story is that our lawful protest is causing traffic accidents and I don’t believe that to be the case,” Maher said, in reference to a story posted earlier today on Ink Free News. “We see nothing to indicate that there is any truth to that.
Ink Free News contacted Hoffert for clarification and he stated the accidents in question were “not [caused] by them.” Rather, the concern was that there have been two accidents there since the fence was placed there, making the spot a safety concern.
“The two incidents are completely 100 percent accurate,” he said. “We have had two cars drive through the construction fencing since it was placed at that spot. Fencing and signs were damaged in one of the two. The other only caused damage to the driver’s car.”
He added that the vehicle was left in the school parking lot until it could be towed.
“It is also the reason that, with the construction process, we are closing that turn and our new entry to Washington will be through the high school,” he added.
The protest is rooted in an occurrence last year at MacAllister Machinery Company’s corporate office, during which a vote was taken whether or not to unionize. The outcome was that the company did not unionize. Company representatives stated earlier that it was the workers, not the company, that made the decision through voting.
The IUOE Local 150 later brought up allegations of threats and intimidation made to workers who were in favor of unionizing.
“When workers want to band together … they should do so without being intimidated or terminated or threatened,” he said. “We share a common goal about the welfare of local workers.”
Since late winter, union representatives have been gathering at different places of business that contract with MacAllister to express their disapproval. They have also staged at MacAllister’s Warsaw location on SR 15, north of town.
Maher added that the union’s intention is not to harm the local workforce.
“The superintendent was very complimentary about the impact on the local workforce and, as a union, we always want to see the best possible outcome for local workers,” Maher said. “And that’s why we have a protest against MacAllister.”