What's with the inflatable rat in River Forest?

The giant rodent on Lake Street reflects a dispute between a park district contractor and a union

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

A giant inflatable rat looked out onto Lake Street from Memorial Parkway in River Forest late last week, drawing attention to a dispute between a landscape contractor hired by the park district and a union objecting to some aspect of the contractor's practices.

The River Forest Park District hired the union contractor, Plainfield-based Fuerte Systems Landscaping, Inc., to work on a bocce ball court in Memorial Parkway, said Executive Director Mike Sletten. Fuerte Systems installs paving surfaces for both public and private customers. In recent years it has also worked for the Park District of Oak Park at Cheney Mansion, Euclid Square and Rehm Park.

But the firm has encountered resistance from local labor unions which have held a series of job actions against the company at projects including in Rolling Meadows and Hoffman Estates, according to a union spokesperson.

Rafael Hurtado, the owner of Fuerte Systems, said the unions "can't stop us from working because we are a full union company."

Because of the varying geographic boundaries covered by union locals it is unclear which local erected the inflatable rat last week at the Lake Street work site. Calls to various locals, including Local 25 in Westchester and Local 118 in Arlington Heights, did not provide a definitive claim of responsibility for the rat.

Now, according to Hurtado, Fuerte's lawyers are discussing the dispute with the Chicago Laborers Pension and Welfare Funds, which provides benefits to participants covered by collective bargaining agreements between the union and contributing employers. A lawyer representing the union organization declined to comment.

Sletten said the dispute had no impact on the project. He said the rat was put up on Thursday or Friday, but as of Monday afternoon, it was gone. The work on the bocce ball project continues.

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Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 6:56 PM

Jim, while we often disagree on things, I always respect the intelligent and thoughful way you express yourself. That's why I'm more measured in my reply to your post requesting I check out RS. After seeing Mr Tiabbi's article following the death of Andrew Brietbart, he showed me he (Tiabbi) is a person of no moral compass and no character whatsoever. To put it bluntly, Tiabbi is a scumbag. Whatever he writes has no meaning to me. He's a bad person, and it's a shame RS has sunk so low.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 1:15 PM

Luke, a must read for you. Check out Matt Taibbi's report on Bank of America in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 1:03 PM

Jim, no one forgets the contributions of the labor movement from 1890's thru 1930. But that was then. Unions today, especially public unions, are nothing but shills for the greedy, evil govt (right Violet?) & the democrat party. They view members only as sources of cash. They exploit workers far more than do employers, but they exploit taxpayers most of all. Violet, wages are affected more by taxes on & regulation of the employer more than anything elso. Please grow up & lose the 1% nonsense.

RLM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 11:28 PM

They did this at the Volvo dealership in Oak Park the last few weeks as well. Fascinated my children, to the point we finally asked them what it was about---they said that the dealership had hired non-union contractors to do the add on to the dealership building. I wonder how effective it is if people don't know what it means....

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 11:41 AM

It really is such a nightmare. You see these crews that are 100% Hispanic (half of my heritage, thank you very much) and you know they are not documented. Meanwhile, Black contractors can't get in the frigging door...You have a conspiracy to hire people from other countries so that we ALL will be groveling with hat in hand, waiting for our pittance. The answer is to form a COMMUNAL SELF-SUFFICIENT SOCIETY so that the 1% can go eff themselves and we are not dependent on them or MonSATAN for life!


Posted: March 22nd, 2012 10:05 AM

Its ignorant to think at this day and age that you need to be union to get into construction. You can get a job with prevailing wages or more, health benefits, and even a 401k program without being union. The only thing you won't get is work protection, so if you are a screw up, please join the union, so they can transfer you to another company. Almost all other facets of business is run that way.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 9:26 AM

Luke, what, pray tell, is the 21st Century workplace? A race to the bottom? Look at the slashing of wages and benefits. Society pays one way or the other for whatever it is we are talking about. Work visas to people from around the world to come here and work on contract so these stinking greedy, evil corporations can reap more profit for themselves whilst avoiding paying workers on contract benefits! Contractors hiring illegals and sometimes stiffing them of wages and what do they do?

OPRF Achievement  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 6:45 AM

UNIONS need to change, to adapt to the 21st cent. They have done some very good things and some very dumb things, like all of us. However, with stunts like using Rats etc., they only tarnish the once good status they enjoyed. These things only have people focus on this bad status - and not the good things they have done. Nothing can be done about that - as this is the only tactic they know - to Intimidate. However, the tide has turned against them, and they have done it to themselves.

To Infinity and Beyond from oak park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 6:02 AM

@JC: I respect what the unions have done for workers in this country.....but does that mean we all have to overpay for everything into eternity to pay back this great debt of gratitude we all owe them? (PS -- I'll be happy to pay more when union labor means higher quality....but not when I get to pay their bloated pensions through my taxes for the rest of my life!)

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 1:16 AM

You must also remember the brave men and women who fought and died trying to organize workers in this country. Don't take for granted the many benefits that you and most Americans are able to enjoy due to the efforts of labor unions.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 12:32 AM

These bums wonder why they are unemployed. I remember when these union guys would follow employees of non-union firms around to their house, follow them dropping off children, follow them to work and to their job-sites just to harass anyone they worked with. The unions are no longer needed in construction. Cannot wait to get prices back to normal for projects!

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park   

Posted: March 21st, 2012 11:33 PM

Violet..I don't think Marco is cheering anything...he's simply pointing out reality. Your 3 type insult shows a very limited mind, typical of the left to deflect the real issue...again, unions are trying to live in the 19th century when the world, and most thinking workers have moved on to the 21st. Come on along, there's plenty of room for all no matter their race, color, creed, or current economic state. The pie is infinite, if govt doesn't confiscate it...fight the real enemy.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 8:37 PM

Marco: And do you cheer that possibility? If so, I suspect you are one of three types: retired, so screw everyone else cuz you got urs and it's that ebil Socialism Faux Noise talks about or 2) You're a lazy, greedy contractor with a big shamrock on your landscape trucks driven by men with dark-brown skin (you just collect 90% of the $$$$) or 3)You are a wage-slave of a teabagger type and since you have a crappy wage and little or no benefits, you don't want anyone else to have them either!


Posted: March 21st, 2012 8:19 PM

That's Scabby The Rat. Here is a link to an article about the inflatable rodent. http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/96535

OPRF Achievement  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 6:16 PM

Intimidation at its BEST! With public appearances like this, ever wonder why Unions are going lower and lower in the minds of the public? The only thing keeping Unions afloat is all the GRAFT out of the State of Illinois

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 4:56 PM

Well... live rats wouldn't stay put. They'd organize for better fleas... and then jump ship.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 4:25 PM

I'll bet they never leave the rat unattended for fear someone may distroy the thing. As few strategic puncture hole and no more giant rat.


Posted: March 21st, 2012 4:22 PM

They should put up an inflatable dinosaur because that's what the unions are going to be. Extinct.


Posted: March 21st, 2012 10:57 AM

What does coughlin think about this. He is the pro union guy around here?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 10:22 AM

Luke ScottWalker, humans as babies only have two primitive fears, loud noises and heights, the rest is learnt behaviour, so stop passing your fears onto them. It seems that any large inflatable rat would require previous authorization from the Village to be erected on public property.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 10:09 AM

These clowns also put up the rat at Rehm Park the other day, scaring some toddlers. It's antics like this that puts the labor movement in a bad light, even in a sympathetic town like OP. Union thugs, especially those in public employee unions, are trying to fit a 19th century business model into the 21 century. It doesn't work, it will never work, and it's up to the labor movement to change or continue dying a slow, painful death.

Shasta from Forest Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 8:57 AM

Is this why the rat disappeared from Garfield and Harlem in Oak Park last week? What was that dispute about? They were there every morning for almost a month. I don't see the point of the rat if you don't know what they're protesting against. Although my toddler loved it.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 2:17 AM

Is this like the new dead-fish-in-the-mail thing?

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