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Constr. & Gen. Laborers' Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

September 24, 2018, Argued; February 14, 2019, Decided

No. 18-1739


 [*1121]  Wood, Chief Judge. Scabby the Rat has returned. Insofar as this case is concerned, he first made his appearance in the Town of Grand Chute, Wisconsin, in connection with a labor dispute there. When the Union could not persuade the district court to enjoin a Town ordinance forbidding Scabby's presence, it appealed to this court. We were concerned, however, that the case might be moot, because the construction project Scabby had adorned was long since completed. Construction and General Laborers' Local Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute, Wisconsin, 834 F.3d 745 (7th Cir. 2016) (Scabby I). We therefore returned the case to the district court for further exploration of the original controversy and the significance, if any, of a replacement ordinance the Town enacted in 2015.

The district court did as we asked. Construction and General Laborers' Local Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute, 297 F. Supp. 3d 850 (E.D. Wis. 2018) (Scabby [**2]  II). It concluded that the case was not moot, because the Union was seeking damages stemming from the 2014 events. On the merits, the court held that the Town did not discriminate against the Union in violation of the First Amendment when it banned Scabby under its 2014 Sign Ordinance, and that the 2015 Sign Ordinance also passed constitutional muster. The Union has appealed from those rulings. We conclude that the district court correctly concluded that the dispute over the 2014 Ordinance was not moot, and that the Ordinance did not discriminate on the basis of content in violation of the First Amendment. Whatever dispute may exist over the 2015 Ordinance is not ripe at this time, however, and so we dismiss that part of the case without prejudice.

Scabby the Rat is a familiar sight in certain parts of the country when a dispute breaks out between a union and an employer. He is notable both for his symbolic meaning and for his size—he is a giant, inflatable balloon, available in sizes from 6 to 25 feet tall. See Union Rats—Rat Pack—Union Balloons, Big Sky Balloons, (last visited Feb. 13, 2019). Scabby made his appearance in this case after Local 330 of the Construction [**3]  and General Laborers' Union learned that a masonry company working at Kolosso Toyota, in the Town of Grand Chute, was not paying area standard wages and benefits. The Union decided to engage in informational picketing at the site and to set up Scabby in the median directly across from the dealer,  [*1122]  along the frontage road for West College Avenue, a major local thoroughfare. (The Union also used a large inflatable "Fat Cat," but there is nothing unusual about the Cat that requires discussion.)

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915 F.3d 1120 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 4434 **; 2019 L.R.R.M. 48809; 169 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P11,147

CONSTRUCTION AND GENERAL LABORERS' UNION NO. 330, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. TOWN OF GRAND CHUTE, Defendant-Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 14-C-455 — William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.

Constr. & Gen. Laborers' Local Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute, 297 F. Supp. 3d 850, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41850 (E.D. Wis., Mar. 14, 2018)


Ordinance, inflatable, district court, signs, rat, protest, right-of-way, sign ordinance, moot, private property, holiday, message

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Forums, Scope, Governments, Local Governments, Ordinances & Regulations, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review