Inflatable Rat Goes to the Supreme Court

In a landmark decision, a divided panel of the Appellate Division affirmed the constitutionality of a Lawrence Township ordinance banning inflatable signs. At issue was IBEW Local 269’s use of a 10-foot tall rat balloon to protest the use of non-union electricians at a Gold’s Gym in Lawrence Township. The police cited a Local 269 business agent under the ordinance and the Union fought the citation asserting that the law violated its right to free speech. Appellate Division Judge and constitutional law expert Jack Sabatino dissented from the majority, finding that the ordinance favors a discrete form of commercial speech (grand opening balloons) while prohibiting non-commercial outdoor signs. Judge Sabatino’s dissent gives the Union an automatic right of appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Union vowed to take the fight to the next level to ensure that the public is made aware of unfair labor practices. Local 269’s attorney, Andrew Watson from the firm of Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman said: “We are confident that the New Jersey Supreme Court will find the ordinance unconstitutional and support the Union’s right to speak out on issues that protect the working men and women of this State.”

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