A six-man utility crew from Alabama returned South today because of what the company said was a requirement that workers agree to join an electrical workers union before being allowed to aid with power restoration in New Jersey.
In a statement, Decatur Utilities of Huntsville, Ala. said they sent a crew to work in Seaside Heights, but held them in Virginia while it clarified paperwork the company understood to be a requirement that its workers join IBEW before aiding crew here. While the crew waited in Virginia, Seaside reportedly received the assistance it needed elsewhere. However “uncertainty” over the union requirement “that we could not agree to” caused the company to recall its workers.
An intial report from an Alabama television station said the workers were “turned away” when they got to New Jersey, however Decatur said their workers never got that far north and turned back because of the union requirement.
More than a million people in the state remain without power. A spokesman for the governor said today that no crews have been turned away and spokesmen for both JCP&L and PSE&G have said they are taking all offers of aid.
Below is the text of the full release from Decatur:
Decatur Utilities sent a 6-man crew to the Northeast Wednesday October 31st, bound for Seaside Heights, NJ to assist with power restoration. Communications with Seaside Heights was poor due to lack of cell phone service in the area. Upon arriving at a staging area near Virginia, crews were held in place pending clarification of documents received from IBEW that implied a requirement of our employees to agree to union affiliation while working in the New York and New Jersey areas. It was and remains our understanding that agreeing to those requirements was a condition of being allowed to work in those areas. As we waited for clarification, we became aware that Seaside Heights had received the assistance they needed from other sources. To be clear, at no time were our crews “turned away” from the utility in Seaside Heights.
In connection with state and regional public power associations, Decatur Utilities attempted to contact other areas that needed assistance. However, based on the uncertainty of union requirements that we could not agree to and the uncertainty of whether a resolution could be reached, we ultimately made the decision to return them to Decatur after being stalled in Virginia are most of the day on Thursday.