There is currently an inflatable rat stationed outside Tumblr’s offices on 35 East 21st Street, according to one of the building’s occupants. The New York City District Council of Carpenters has installed the familiar oversized rodent as a symbol of what the union calls a “labor dispute” with Tumblr.
Carpenters spokesman Kwame Patterson told Betabeat in an email that the union is targeting Tumblr because the company hired Cooper Works Inc., a non-union contractor that “does not meet area labor standards in terms of good wages and benefits.”
“And yes,” he confirmed, “the Rat is on full display in front of the social media company.”
The flyer, which begins with “SHAME ON” Tumblr in all caps, alleges that Tumblr “hires contractors that do not meet area labor standards, including providing or fully paying for family healthcare and pension for all of its carpenter craft employees.” It goes on to argue that its policy of “insulat[ing] themselves behind ‘independent contractors’” leads to “desecration of the American way of life.”
“In our opinion the community ends up paying the tab for for employee health care and low wages tend to lower general community standards, thereby encouraging crime and other social ills.”
We have reached out to Tumblr, which has raised $125 million in venture financing from firms like Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital, Sequoia Capital and Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund, for clarification on the dispute. However, Betabeat has learned that Tumblr’s architect recommended the contractors.
It’s unclear whether today’s protest is related to Tumblr expanding its office, but it appears as though the union may have neglected to edit its boilerplate flyer. The one being passed out refers to “construction work performed on their future hotels.” It also instructs advocates to call “President” John Maloney, a friend of Tumblr founder David Karp who resigned from his position in April.
This post has been updated to include responses to questions from the union and additional information about the decision to employ non-union contractors.