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What's With the Rat?

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The protest on Brickell Avenue is hard to miss. Not because there are a couple of dozen red-shirted folks chanting in unison over the din of nearby high-rise construction. Not because of the person on the bullhorn exhorting drivers to honk. And not because someone's passing out flyers that include the words BAD CORPORATE CITIZEN.

Nope. The protest is hard to miss because of the rat.

On Thursday, the rat - who is actually a fortyish man in sandals wearing a matted and stinky costume - and the protestors walked in a circle on the sidewalk in front of 1000 Brickell. They shouted something unintelligble, then the word, "RAT."

According to Miguel Fuentes, a representative from the Florida Carpenters Regional Council, the group was not protesting the fuzzy rodent, but a subcontractor in the building who has a penchant for paying workers low wages. Fuentes said that construction workers on high-rises in Miami often get paid far less than union scale, often by subcontractors.

"With the construction boom the way it is, I don't see how the developers can't afford to pay those wages," he said.

Developers in Miami greedy? No!

"We're just trying to inform the public about practices in the industry," sighed Fuentes. "It's a big, vicious circle and nobody wants to address the issues."

The protesters - some of them homeless, others law-wage workers, all paid by the union - broke for the day around 12:30 p.m. The rat guy - whose name is Bill Glavais -- took off the rat head and stepped out of the gray, furry body right there on the sidewalk. He'll be back today.

Said Fuentes: "Bill always plays the rat." -Tamara Lush

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