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Posted at 2:04 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Lunch near the Madison, with Scabby

By Elizabeth Flock
"Scabby" the rat (Juana Arias-For The Washington Post)

For nearly two weeks, picketers have marched outside the Madison Hotel in the District, shouting slogans like "Up with the union! Down with the bosses!" with the help of a megaphone and the giant union rat "Scabby".

Union Local 25 is accusing the new management company at the Madison, Destination Hotels & Resorts, of firing employees without warning and refusing to honor the existing labor agreement.

Pickets such as these are common in the Farragut North area, as any Postie can tell you. A Post editor who lives down the street has been unceremoniously woken up by their battle cries at 7 a.m. every morning. When I made the mistake of walking inside the Madison, the picketers bellowed "Boooo!!" at my back.

The Madison Hotel did not immediately respond to request for comment.

We were curious about how other folks in the area felt about the protests, and decided to ask them on their lunch hour.

Dale Nolte, an employee on the mall walking by the picket bearing a Subway sandwich bag, had this reaction: "I don't know much about it but it's pretty nebulous, if you know what I mean. I've had to walk by this for the last two weeks."

When we asked a passing girl pressing her earmuffs close to her head, she said "what a nuisance!" and scurried on. Patrons wore faces of disgust at Caribou Coffee, where the shouts were heard through the windows.

Four employees of the Fish and Wildlife Association who ventured out to get some Chipotle food were more sympathetic. "We're impressed by their endurance. They've been out here in the most freezing cold weather. They're here when we come to work and they're here when we leave!"

When I asked Bradley Van Waus, Local 25 Organizing Coordinator, to explain his concerns to me, he put down his megaphone. As we spoke, "Scabby" the rat billowed in the wind, a Madison patron rushed past the picketers to use a different hotel entrance, and the battle cry changed from "Oohh, oohh, we're fired up!" to "5,6,7,8, and we will demonstrate."

Van Waus told me they aren't going away any time soon. "We will be here, every day, until they abide by the agreement." With that, Van Waus nodded, thanked me, and resumed his place at the megaphone.

What do you think of picketers in your area? Are they a nuisance or are they working class heroes? Tell us in the comments below.

By Elizabeth Flock  | February 11, 2011; 2:04 PM ET
Categories:  Lunch Room Chatter  
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