New Development Protested at Connecticut and Military Rd, NW


@ExistentialMG tweets us these photos from 5333 Connecticut Ave, NW and writes:

“from earlier this morning on Military Road by Connecticut. What’s this protest about?”

I believe these giant inflatable rats are used by Unions to protest non union labor.


75 Comment

  • Does anyone else automatically roll their eyes at union protests?

    • Totally.

    • nope.
      if it wasn’t for a union, i wouldn’t have had the middle class up bringing i had. nor would my grandmother have the peaceful and secure life she currently has.

      • I totally understand this and I’m with you. The problem is when unions hire homeless people to do their protests. It gets a little ridiculous. Check out this Daily Show clip and see what today’s union protests actually look like:

        I hire contractors as part of my job at a large nonprofit that is solidly on the left in American politics. Mechanical and electrical work is basically the same price whether union or nonunion. The union drywallers on the other hand charge 3x as much as nonunion. If you don’t hire them then they hire bums to protest outside your office and even inflate a rat. It’s making me a little less pro-union.

    • Yeah, scabs and oligarchs.

  • Can someone let me know at what point unions stopped being for industries that were inherently dangerous and/or unregulated? I’m fairly left leaning, and while I’m sure unions do a number of great things, they seem to shelter and protect useless/lazy/incompetent employees, thus 1.) diminishing their credibility as an organization; 2.) prompting firms to find non-union labor; 3.) distort the labor market and ice out otherwise competent people. Fire at will.

    • Not to mention, 4.) Look absolutely ridiculous and backwards by utilizing giant inflatable rats (to great effect, I’m sure) at protests.

    • Correct. Unions were crucial for fixing serious workplace dangers and employee abuse but now they seem more intent on justifying their union dues than actually solving real problems for employees.

      • Yes, because the American worker has done WONDERFULLY since the destruction of Unions was started four decades ago. Obviously just a coincidence.

      • I work for a union. We organize workers in some parts of the healthcare sector. Many of the workers we deal with get no breaks, work for over 18 hours a day and not told by employers when they folks they were caring for had infectious diseases. Is that not a dangerous workplace?

  • brookland_rez

    The funniest thing is the protesters aren’t even union employees. They actually go and get random people off the street to beat the buckets and stuff.

    • justinbc

      Yeah, I see them constantly down around Farragut. One day while on the bus I actually overheard a guy talking on the phone to a protest line organizer and arranging his hourly payment. He said he had participated in a couple dozen already this year.

      • brookland_rez

        The bucket beaters should start a bucket beaters union. But then that would drive the wages up and the union wouldn’t hire them and would go out and find other non-union bucket beaters.

    • Or they hire homeless people. I wonder if they’re paid union scale wages?

      One of my best friends works for a union. We can hardly have a conversation with him finding a reason to rail against capitalism and non-union labor. He owns an iphone. I wonder how much the people who bult it got paid.

      • they’re not paid union scale, they’re paid minimum wage. John Stewart did a hilarious piece on this a couple years back where a correspondent went and interviewed some people on the line in one of these protests and asked them about their health benefits etc.

    • This is actually the incredible irony of these protests. The protesters are paid starvation wages and get no benefits. Shows you how much the union actually cares about working people.

    • Yup. Essentially they hire “scabs” to protest in the place of actual union members. The whole thing is despicable and I have lost all sympathy for their cause.

  • Ugh, this makes me think of seeing/hearing noisy protests in front of the (so-called) Hinckley Hilton back when I used to ride the 42/43 bus. I felt really sorry for hotel guests, office workers, and anyone else within earshot.

  • I belive this is the rat that Service Employees international uses…They are a total joke. They protested other developments in upper NW (the few that ever happen), especially one in Friendship Heights at the Metro (it later was sold and pepco is gonna build a sub station). the are such BS. The are pissed about things in other buildings but then use future development to try and whip people into a frenzy. And a PP is right, most the picketers are actually non union random temp workers!
    Im a liberal but I think unions lost their way 40 years ago. They now exist for the main purpose of keeping completely awful people employeed. Please read the recent Post article on School bus drivers in DC running lights, causing accidents with kids on the bus and the Union still won’t fire them until its at like 3 accidents in one year. I hate unions now.

    • The Carpenters’ Union uses one. I have a friend who used to bring it to protests when he was working for them here.

    • You are absolutely wrong. The rat is used by construction workers. Lay off the Fox news. SEIU doesn’t have a rat in DC.

  • The unions might want to be careful on this one. A giant yellow inflatable duck in harbors and lakes is becoming a global art phenomenon that cities are trying to get to set up there. While the rat may not be as cute as a duck, it is at least interesting. Some people might end up discouraging union contracts so they can get the big rat to come set up shop!

  • I understand how unions get a bad name, but construction sites are still inherently dangerous. Without worksite safeguards and poorly trained workers, accidents and mistakes happen. On large scale projects you need highly trained/skilled workers. It also ensures the workers have health insurance and a fair wage. Do you know non-union contractors generally being in illegal immigrants and say they are paying them $30/hour, but then charge back a “tools” fee, sometimes a “housing” fee, and other fees which then results in their net pay being below even the minimum wage. If addition, they don’t pay for workers comp. Unions are good for country. Look at the graphs… The decline of the middle class can be directly correlated to the decline of labor unions.

    • “The decline of the middle class can be directly correlated to the decline of labor unions.” And not to the decline of manufacturing as a U.S.-based industry?

      • it’s also directly correlated to the warming of the earth, and gold prices, and the amount of milk sold in grocery stores. conspiracy.

      • No,

        Manufacturing jobs were good one because they were union. A lot plants coming back from China are nonunion and pay $8-9 an hour.

      • well, what made a manufacturing job a “good job” in the first place? The union. No reason why some form of unionization couldn’t make service industry or retail jobs “good jobs”. So, yes, “the decline of the middle class can be directly correlated to the decline of labor unions” seems pretty accurate to me. Not saying there aren’t issues with the current state of play in union politics, but let’s be real about how arbitrary the relationship between middle class or even working class wages and the classification of work really is — it’s about any kind of job being lifted up to a living or middle class wage, not the industry itself.

    • Certainly. But according to a completely nonscientific study done in my head, I think the decline in unions is directly attributable to a shifted focus from “protecting the worker” to “protecting the worker’s right to a paycheck”. If unions had decided long ago to essentially be guilds of the best tradesmen around, they would currently represent quality worth paying for. Instead, they decided to protect every union member’s right to their jobs, regardless of competence, skill, or performance, and now are laughable anachronisms.

      • So workers aren’t entitled to a fair paycheck?

        • Sure, if they do their jobs well. The bottom line is that whether it’s unionized labor or federal employment or whatever, when it is difficult to fire someone when they suck at their jobs, it creates horrible inefficiencies. Other people that would do the jobs better for the same pay are iced out, productivity and morale fall, etc. etc.

        • entitled to a fair paycheck? um no. This is why I dont have a lot of sympathy for people in fast food who think they are “entitled” to 15/hour. A fast food job was not meant to support a family of 4 to begin with. Stop having kids.
          double the cost of the food and see how fast stores close and jobs disappear. its amazing to me the disconnect between unions and the realities of a global economy. And I say this as a daughter of a father who lost his textile business to competition in mexico. Unions would not have helped save it. I swear reading this thread is gonna turn me into a republican.

  • It’s not too surprising that the wine and cheese crowd here would fail to understand the importance of organized labor.

    • I’m more of a beer guy myself, but seriously, who dislikes cheese?

    • +1

      Concrete workers on the site are protesting stagnant wages. Learn something before you post, people.

      • Yes, because concrete workers are the only ones that have had to suffer the burden of “stagnant wages”.

        • Does that mean we should all sit back idly by and let it all be? Silly logic there.

          • No, but nor does it mean that we should inflate rats and bang pots. Certainly, had EVERY FEDERAL WORKER decided to protest in this manner from 2010 to this past January because “their wages were stagnant” would you be cheering them on for bringing awareness to their plight? Or tell them to get back to work?

      • I don’t really think its appropriate to strike and protest for the sole purpose of increased wages. You agree to work for the wage you are paid. If your boss is treating you unfairly or putting your health at risk then you should absolutely refuse to work, but protesting and striking because you want a raise annihilates the spirit and purpose of a strike. Strikes against big business began in this country because workers had ZERO recourse against unfair employers by themselves and only had power as a group. If your boss refused to pay you, you were shit out of luck until the union stepped in. If your boss paid you in company store money, you had to take it or find other work. Nowadays… if you want a raise and your boss won’t give it to you then you should quit and find other work. There is no inherent right to have your salary increased regularly and collectively shutting down your business is not the correct way to get a raise.

        • Because it’s so easy to quit and find another job? Maybe for Popville. But there is a huge disconnect really by the online community and those who actually who could benefit from unions.

          In fact, with all the griping I hear about people’s own jobs whether on Popville or in my own immediate circle, a lot of people can benefit from unions. You don’t have to be in a low paying job to organize. It’s really sad to see people believe they are powerless.

          • This is exactly my point. A strike should not be used to benefit workers who are not in distress. It should be used when workers ARE powerless. “You don’t have to be in a low paying job to organize.” Of course not, but if your job is paying you fairly and not putting you in danger then why would you need to organize? That is unions for unions’ sake.

        • This is laughably ignorant of history, but I’m amused your ignorance neither stops you from forming strong opinions on labor or from posting them for the world to admire. Do you realize EVERYTHING you said was argued by the robber barons of the past?

          Please, tell us the hard date that workers officially had a sufficient opportunity to find another job, thus making strikes “inappropriate” in your world? 1900? 1950? 1980? I’d really love to know…

        • What is your standard of “distress” or fair pay? If you want to better the conditions of your work, why not organize and why would you have anything agianst someone who wants to better their own conditions? It’s not for you to determine what is fair for someone else.

          If someone believes they have the collective support and strength to make their working conditons and that of their coworkers better. If people are fighting for higher wages, they know it’s their strongest option as opposed to quitting and either being unable to find another job or working at lower wages again.

          • Robber barons of the past make today’s robber baron’s look like humanitarian non-profit workers. Some important dates in history: 1935- National Labor Relations Act (the right to unionize and strike) 1938 – Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage and 44 hour, 7 day work weeks, overtime and no child labor) , 1970 – Occupational Safety and Health Act (Safe work environment). Admittedly, absolutely none of these changes would have come about without unions. The thing is though, now the laws that unions of the past earned us protect workers enough so that the unions are no longer necessary. If you have an unsafe work environment you can either 1) legally sue your employer and win or 2) have you and all your coworkers give up their pay for the duration of a strike and hope that the political pressure makes things change. The robber baron’s of the past are GONE (in the USA). My counter question, where are today’s equivalent of the disenfranchised industrial workers of the 20s and 30s? What is today’s equivalent to having to work 80 hours a week to not make enough money to feed your family and then get fired when your arm gets chopped off at work? – – – Cross, I very much agree with your point. I think workers have every right to try and improve their working environment and even their pay. With minimum wage being as pitifully low as it is many many people can’t afford more than the bare necessities (and as a great nation our goal should be to provide beyond the necessities) I just believe that a worker being forced to pay union dues to an organization like AFL-CIO that has 11.5 million members and gave almost $100 million to democrats and $6 million to republicans is a much less efficient way for workers to get what they want. In modern times, paying dues to a union is essentially supporting certain political candidates. Paying taxes to keep the justice system running is what protects workers in this country.

      • I can’t seem to reply to the person who commented about federal workers. Federal workes are covered under a different statute than those who work for private companies. They are not allowed to strike or do anything that would disrupt their work.

        • In your eagerness to point out a fact, you missed the point.

          • Nah, I get the point. I don’t agree with it.

            Employees have very few tools they can use to effect change. Strikes and work disruptions are a couple of them and I support the use of them by employees who want to better their working conditions. If it is an inconvenience to me, I would contact the employer – the one who actually has the power in these situations to do anything -to resolve the problem. Then I will continue on my day and feel fortunate that I do have a job where I don’t feel the need to engage in a desperate measure (to strike and forgo wages in the belief that it can effect change) to better my working conditions.

            People speak as if these decisions are made lightly. You would never think of doing any of that because you have never been in a situation where you believe it’s your only choice.

  • They hire random, non-union people to scream and bang on buckets and harass office workers all the time.

    Pretty foolish and inefficient way to get your point across.

  • I think there’s still a role for unions, but I do roll my eyes at this kind of stuff. What are they trying to accomplish? It’s just stupid PR.

    I once saw a giant rat set up next to the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown so I asked the organizer what was up. He said that the hotel had been cited for rodent issues on a health inspection. Clearly, that’s not what the union was upset about. The disconnect just pissed me off.

    • The giant rat and protesters were across from my office for several weeks. I also was foolish enough to ask one of the gentleman in line what they were protesting. He only knew the name of the company that he was protesting; nothing else. I was then handed literature. Great!!! I thought… until I realized it was on off-centered screen shot of the union website’s homepage. Nothing could be read. Sorry guys, I don’t think you are legitimate. Honest question for the pro-labor crowd; “what is the biggest union accomplishment in the last 20 years?”

      • You’re asking the wrong question No one is claiming the past 20 years have been a great success story for unions in the US. In the past 20 years (actually longer) union membership in the US has fallen drastically. And during this time, wages have stagnated, the middle class share of income has fallen dramatically, and we’ve seen a massive spike in income inequality. The unions haven’t been winning, they’ve been losing. And the American middle class is losing right along with them.

    • It’s been extremely effective for some unions. The hotel workers used it to great effect. Of course, noisy protests outside a hotel tend to hurt the hotel’s profits as annoyed guests stay away. In this case, the only people getting annoyed are the neighbors, and they’re a bunch of NIMBYs who fought this development tooth and nail.

      • justinbc

        Yeah, we were in SF during their hotel union strike in 2009. What a massive PITA. Their protesters were actually yelling at hotel guests too, as if we somehow had anything to do with it.

  • Hey guys, I’m the OP. I saw this on my way into work today.

    I’m really not terribly political and don’t know a lot about unions and protesting, but as for hiring non-union people and “bucket beating,” that’s not really what it looked like. It looked like the workers and their friends and family supporting them. It just looked like a gathering, no screaming or anything. And they were giving out hot drinks. Maybe that’s because it was 8:30am. Who knows.

  • Isn’t that the building site that all of the surrounding neighbors are pissed about and tried to stop from happening? They all have signs in their yards saying something like ‘protect our neighborhood’ or keep Chevy Chase quaint….something of the sort. When they didn’t get anywhere, they likely called in the union to help

    • It’s always astounding to me to see how little liberal people understand the role of labor in the progressive movement. Labor donated about $1 million dollars to the gay marriage fight in Maryland. Why? because our members wanted to get married. Minimum wage hikes for all workers – supported and fought for by labor unions. Progressive politicians? Mostly put into office by volunteers from labor who get out the vote. Labor has been at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement to help those workers come out from the shadows and stop being exploited. One issue that unions are working on and looking at right now is student loan debt–primarily because our members are concerned about their children’s future.

      Do you also not know how we protect things like OSHA or funding for labor law enforcement? It’s labor lobbying and dollars that push to ensure that those legal protections are still funded and working for all workers. Much of the laws that people think make labor unions obsolete are under constant attack from the business community and are very much minimally funded.

      You may not think that unions help you but there a tons of ways that we do everyday. And if you brother’s cousin knew some guy who was lazy and got the union to help him so therefore all unions suck is your answer, sorry I’m not buying it. There are bad apples in unions, just as there are in governments and businesses but we will all lose if the right continues to try to destroy unions.

      • Sorry, anon, that wasn’t meant to be a reply to your comment.

      • jim_ed

        I would argue using anecdotal evidence that the reason many liberal people are tepid about labor unions is because liberals tend to cluster in places where labor unions have been given outsized power that leaves a bad taste in their mouths – places like DC New York or Philadelphia, etc. The public perception is that its all but impossible to get fired from a WMATA unionized job, or that unionized teacher have fought against students best interests in their steadfast opposition to charter schools; not to mention the seemingly endless downtown protests by certain labor trades that all but desensitize the public of their plight.

        • jim_ed

          whoops, hit post too fast.

          This is a far different scenario than somewhere where labor unions are weak and workers rights are continually trampled and wages held down, like factories in right-to-work, anti-labor states such as South Carolina or Tennessee. Unions and Management are a balancing act, and when one grossly tips the scales of the other, people will react negatively.

          • I think you’re exactly right. People who “automatically roll their eyes” at labor protests are just as ignorant as those who think we should abolish capitalism or the corporate form. All of the above institutions help make America great, while at the same time any given corporation or union has the potential to be a bad actor.
            I really wish people would read some books on labor history before being dismissive – there are lots of good ones out there. Being dismissive without at least educating yourself first is really friggin’ lazy.

        • +1 Thanks. I think there is plenty room for unions to advocate for the right things for the right people. When such “advocacy” starts to undercut the raison d’etre of the very positions they are protecting, the problem begins. When teachers become more important than teaching, or bus drivers than bus driving, whats the point?

          • I agree and I have seen my union protect people from crazy actions by the boss but also straight up tell people, hey, you need to go. You are bad for the whole union.

            As for teachers, it’s a pretty interesting position. I have a sister who is a teacher and not progressive or generally pro-union at all. But she argues more than anyone about how she really needs protection because of the number of parents and kids that come after teachers. One bad grade and they are threatened. Kids say awful things about teachers and parents really react towards her.

            But the reality is that charter schools haven’t done better for kids that public schools in most studies. The issues around education reform are much more difficult than just unions in my opinion but that’s often the easiest target.

          • jim_ed

            Not to get too far into the weeds here of the general merits of individual unions, but…Sure, and there are absolutely places where teachers unions are essential, especially in states/ localities where elected leaders are continuously trying to screw them because they’re anti-intellectualism, or anti-public workers, etc. And I think in lots of places, charter schools are just a cover for trying to break teachers unions. But here in DC, the public schools have been generally awful for 30+ years now, and unless you’re rich enough or lucky enough to get your kids into schools west of the park, you’re basically sending your kid into failure. Charters like KIPP, Two Rivers, Washington Latin, etc have been godsends to people who would otherwise have to move or generally send their kids to Ballou or Roosevelt or some other terrible school.

            I come from a dual union household, so I know the tao of the unions. One parent has a strong pension guaranteed for life at 62, the other had their pension destroyed in bargaining by weak union leadership, and will probably work into their 70s because of it, despite a lifetime of union dues.

      • Thank you so much for posting this. If anything, unions are needed more now than they have been in a long time.

        • Jim_ed I agree that in DC some charter schools have been great and that the school system can be really difficult and a complete failure for so many families. I’m sure, like you, I’ve seen a ton of my friends leave the city and move to the suburbs to get their kids in better schools. But for all the KIPPs and others, there have been at least 2 charter schools in DC that have been closed due to gross misconduct by the leadership. They have taken millions of tax payer dollars that could have gone to kids. I also think that one of the main problems with charters is that you need a parent to advocate for you to get you into those schools. So many of the problems with DC schools are kids whose parents can’t or don’t pay attention to their education. So they are left with miserable schools and all of the parents that may have made them better are gone. I think that if we really want to figure out better schools, we also need to figure out more effective ways to reduce generational poverty and overall community neglect. It’s a very complicated topic that for me, at least, seems to need a more nuanced and complicated solution.

          • Also, Montgomery County schools, which are some of the best in the nation, has one of the most unionized staff in the country. There is a teacher’s union, support staff union and principal’s union. And currently there are more kids in Montgomery County schools that receive free and reduced lunches than there are children in the entire DCPS school system.

          • jim_ed

            I agree with just about everything you’ve said here. My issue with the DC teachers union is how they reflexively opposed charters because they weren’t unionized. Charters certainly have warts, but they’ve shaken up a system that ran a monopoly on overwhelmingly crappy education. I have zero intention of leaving the city when my kids hit highscool (or middle school for that matter) becuase charters give me some guarantee of flexibility rather than sending my kids to Roosevelt. Considering my only child is 4 months old, tons could change between now and then, and I would consider a public high school if it was even just mediocre, but as currently construed, they’re not a tenable option for most parents.

            I don’t live in MoCo (thank god), so I’m certainly not an expert on their schools. However, I was under the impression that MCPS stats as a whole are misleading in that for high schools at least, their are a handful of exceptionally high achieving schools BCC, Churchill, Walter Johnson, etc. and then a bunch of mediocre or worse schools in the eastern half of the county like Einstein, Kennedy, etc. These schools are also highly racially stratified between those in the eastern, poorer parts of the county and the wealthier, whiter parts around Bethesda and Potomac. That is to say, it’s my understanding that the kids overachieving aren’t the same ones eating the free lunches, and they’re not going to the same schools.

  • On a side note, I have also seen the inflatable rats used at World Bank protests here in DC.

  • Alright, so like 95% of the people there do not work for the place they are protesting. Two of the small handful of guys that joined this union got $1 raises JUST last week. All workers have access to healthcare and 4% matching retirement if they choose. The union is spouting flat out lies because to them any means justify the end. Its a labor union, not a trade union, big difference. No one on that site gets as little as what is quoted in the article and it isnt ‘seasonal’, they work in everything except a downpour and a foot of snow. Absolutely a bold face lie and manipulative. So there.

    • “Its a labor union, not a trade union, big difference” – nope. From wiki: “A trade union (British English and Australian English – trades union is also used), labour union (Canadian English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers who have united together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, achieving higher pay and benefits such as health care and retirement, increasing the number of employees an employer assigns to complete the work, safety standards, and better working conditions.”

  • Didnt’t the DOJ have to have to go after Google, Intuit et al for anti-competitive practices. The companies agreed not to go after competitors skilled employees. Unions are not perfect but still needed

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