The hurricane-ravaged east coast has been receiving north Alabama help, but crews from Huntsville Utilities learned they’ll be doing work in Long Island, New York instead of in New Jersey. Crews from Huntsville, as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees…The crews were told to stand down. In fact, Moore said the crew from Trinity is already headed back home.
It’s almost enough to leave you speechless. Almost:
Guess we’ll see if Obama’s “We leave nobody behind” vow has a union label sewn on it.
Representatives with Huntsville Utilities and Joe Wheeler Cooperative, two area utilities mentioned in media reports claiming their crews were not allowed to help with storm aid in New Jersey because they were non-union, said this morning the story is untrue.
The general manager of the other department mentioned, Decatur Utilities, has been unavailable for comment this morning.
The general manager of Decatur Utilities confirms the original story.
There will be a press conference this afternoon.
The IBEW has released a statement asserting that it would not have turned away help from non-union workers:
It is the policy of this union and the companies we represent to welcome assistance during major natural disasters – regardless of union status.
There have been reports that a nonunion crew was turned away from work in New Jersey. At this stage, it is not clear who is alleged to have turned the crew away and the company that employs the affected workers has denied the claim. IBEW local leaders in New Jersey have reiterated what has been the long standing record of our union –in times of crisis all help is welcome and we pull together with everyone to meet the needs of the public. We have communicated this to the office of New Jersey Governor Christie as well.
It is unfortunate that at a time when skilled line workers are working around the clock to help devastated communities, sketchy reports should cast a pall over these efforts. The real story is that our members and others are working side by side to help people in New Jersey and all affected states get their power back and recover from the effects of the storm.
The IBEW also says that Ray Hardin, general manager of Decatur Utilities, has admitted that the dust-up was due to difficulties with communication and “agreements” as opposed to union vs. non-union issues:
WAAY 31’s Shea Allen spoke with Ray Hardin, General Manager at Decatur Utilities, this morning. Hardin says communication was difficult from the start and after their crews were stalled for more than a day, they made the decision to bring them home.
Hardin says they were never presented with an agreement asking them to join the union and that the issue is quickly being turned into something political.
Bill Yell with Huntsville Utilities says it is typical for “agreements” to be signed between power companies in disaster affected areas and the crews that come in from out of town to assist in the recovery. Yell says typically, the local power authorities use FEMA money to reimburse assisting electrical crews for the wages they pay their employees. Yell says these types of agreements are usually time consuming and arduous. He says the downed phone lines and lack of internet connection has made these agreements much more difficult.