Labor union's disturbing sign outside elementary school prompts drastic action from superintendent

The superintendent took matters into his own hands, and pushed over the display

A labor union set up a disturbing display of a casket and a photo depicting a dead person’s feet outside of a grade school in New Jersey to protest the district hiring a contractor for a construction project, which sparked the school’s superintendent to knock it over. 

"For the safety of the children, as the Superintendent of Schools, I really had no choice but to protect them. I responded immediately to the coffin on school property and knocked it to the ground," superintendent of Edison Township public schools, Bernard Bragen, said in a statement to Fox News. 

The situation unfolded on Friday, after LIUNA Laborers Local 77 had already set up an inflatable rat at the school earlier this week to protest a $9 million construction project at the school. The district was required to hire the lowest bidder for the project, Pal-Pro Builders of Bergen County, but the union said the group does not hire local workers, NJ Advance Media reported

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The banner hanging on the coffin featured a photo depicting a corpse’s feet with a toe tag, and said: "Irresponsible contractors are killing our middle class wages."

"I learned that LIUNA Laborers Local 77 returned to our Lincoln Elementary School, this time setting up the inflatable giant rat and in addition, a real coffin," Bragen said in his statement provided to Fox News. "I cannot believe that any adults, regardless of the issues at hand, would think it was appropriate to place a coffin with a graphic image of a deceased body at the entrance of an elementary school on the first full day of school after the year we all just experienced." 

Bragen said he spent an hour and 45 minutes calling police and other local leaders to remove the display before the students arrived. He also asked the union to remove the display, to which they said, ‘tough s---,’" Bragen told NJ Advance Media. 

So he took action into his own hands. 

Bragen was able to topple the casket and had it covered with a tarp before the five- and six-year-old children arrived, Keith Hahn, a Republican candidate for Edison mayor, told Fox News on Saturday morning. 

Hahn, who was a police officer for more than two decades in Edison, said he received about a "dozen phone calls from irate parents" over the rat display and then the casket. He was on school property Friday morning and also tried to tell the labor union to remove the display. 

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He recounted to Fox News that he told the union protesters: "It was inappropriate the other day with the rat. You have a rat and a coffin with a picture of a dead body and a toe tag."

"I said, we're in the middle of a pandemic, you don't know how many of these kids lost loved ones or relatives," he said, calling it the "wrong place at the wrong time."

The incident also came just days after the remnants of Hurricane Ida ripped through New Jersey, and left parts of Edison flooded and at least one resident of the township dead. 

The labor union did not immediately respond to Fox News’s request for comment, but a spokesman for Liuna Local 77 told NJ Advance Media that the display was removed before the children arrived at school. 

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"How do we know this? Because at 8:21 a.m. a school official (Bragen) actually knocked down the display which was never put back up before its removal," the spokesman said.