Union Brings Rat to Cemetery

By Greg Cergol
|  Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009  |  Updated 7:46 PM EDT
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Poor Taste? Union Organizers Use Rat to Protest at Cemetery

NBCNewYork

A large union rat outside of the Westbury cemetery.

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Poor Taste? Union Organizers Use Rat to Protest at Cemetery

For about a week, union workers have picketed the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, claiming it is using non-union workers for the installation of pre-fabricated crypts.
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Protestors waved signs, passersby honked their horns in support, and a huge inflatable "rat" stood by, signaling that this was a union demonstration.

All pretty standard, except for one thing -- this protest was being staged outside the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, Long Island.

"I don't think the way we are handling this is inappropriate," said laborers' local 66 organizer John O'Brien.

For much of the past week, O'Brien and his men have picketed the cemetery, claiming it is using non-union workers for the installation of pre-fabricated crypts.

But for some mourners visiting the cemetery, the issue isn't jobs, it's good taste.

"It's the holidays, a cemetery. I think it's wrong," said Joe Mercurio, a retired union man who lost his son on 9/11 and said he would never have joined a protest at a cemetery.

"It's very hard to come here," added mourner Gianna Branca. "I miss my mom and dad and I don't need to see that [rat]."

O'Brien said they didn't mean any disrespect, "But this is a matter of livelihood and survival on Long Island."

A spokesman for the cemetery's owner, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, called the protest in "poor taste."

Sean Dolan claims only a single union job has been lost as the manufacturer sets the crypts in place.

"After that," says Dolan, "union workers will install electricity and all the rest."

One mourner did side with the protesters, saying it's their right to demonstrate wherever they choose.

"That's what our country stands for," said Beatrice West. "My daughter buried in there would have said the same thing."

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