Nonunionized utility workers turned away in Jersey

The story is being trumpeted by the conservative media and has caused an uproar online. But it's inaccurate.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 2, 2012 12:09PM
A report from an Alabama television station claiming that nonunionized utility workers were being turned away from New Jersey by unionized workers has blown up on the Internet, particularly on conservative sites, as evidence of the arrogance of organized labor.

TV station WAFF, citing Derrick Moore, a crew member from Decatur Utilties, said workers "were told by crews in New Jersey that they can't do any work there because they're not union employees." Crews from Decatur and Joe Wheeler EMC, an Alabama cooperative, are in Roanoke, Va., though the Joe Wheeler crews are heading home, the report said. They had expected to go to Seaside Heights, N.J., which has been ravaged by Sandy, and are instead going to Long Island, N.Y.

But workers for Joe Wheeler, based in Trinity, Ala., are unionized and are going home after being deployed to Denton, Md., according company spokeswoman Mandi Philips.

"I don't know how we got thrown into the mix," she said, adding that the crews are coming home because their work is done.

WAFF news director Adam Henning told me before the utility's statement was issued the station stands by its story. Ray Hardin, the general manager of Decatur, told FOX Business on Friday that officials from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers presented workers with documents that "required our folks to affiliate with the union," which the company wouldn't agree to. It's unclear exactly what that means.

In a press release, Decatur said it waited for "clarification" of documents from the IBEW "that implied a requirement of our employees to agree to union affiliation" while working in New York and New Jersey.

"As we waited for clarification, we became aware that Seaside Heights received the assistance they needed from other sources," the statement says. "To be clear, at no time were our crews 'turned away' from the utility in Seaside Heights."

The IBEW wasn't immediately available for comment.

Mike Langford, the president of the the Utility Workers of America, told MSN that his members frequently work alongside nonunion workers. He added that companies, not employees, determine which workers are allowed in their territories.

"Of course, we would like to see all workers in unions," he said. "Nobody is being turned away from doing work. It's all hands on deck."

Pepco Holdings' (POM) Atlantic City Electric, whose service area includes the storm-ravaged Jersey shore,  is now "aware of this occurring in our service territory. We are focused on the restoration effort," according to spokesman Frank Tedesco. Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light, another New Jersey power company, is quoted in the press as denying that nonunion workers were not welcome.

It's easy to see why this story resonated with political conservatives. New Jersey certainly has a strong organized labor movement, though as in other places nationwide, its power has diminished considerably over the years. Unions do flex their muscle from time to time in the area in ways that are counterproductive. In Philadelphia, hotel operators recently complained that "unless things change drastically on the labor front," the Convention Center will lose major bookings, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The lesson here, however, is the same one that parents everywhere teach their children: Don't believe everything you read.

Story updated to add statement from Decatur Utilities.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter@jdberr.

Nov 2, 2012 3:11PM
I know a situation where a union painter who did commercial work was out of work because unioin work was slow.  he began to do residential work which his union did not do anyway.  He was painting and was photographed doing non-uniion work.  Was then subsequently hauled into court and fined for working outside his union agreement.  No wonder the unions get a bad rap.  they deserve it.
Nov 2, 2012 3:15PM
Unions were the best things for America in the 1800's. Now they are what is corruptin and destroying our liberties.
Nov 2, 2012 12:47PM
Welcome to NJ, the land of corrupt liberal politicians who have bought their way into government by giving unions everything they want.
Nov 2, 2012 3:14PM

Unions, like the ACLU have long out lived their usefulness.  Unions have made the Democratic Party it's tool.  Where else but at a union jobsite can you find 10 guys standing around getting paid, waiting for 1 guy to unload a truck, because "It's not my job".


This article is yet another reason for California voters to vote YES on proposition 32, and end the Union stranglehold on Sacramento.


Unions....that word leaves a very bad taste in my mouth!

Nov 2, 2012 3:01PM

This is probably true...

I hope every one has a chance to read this and BELIEVE in it.

It happens so often and no offense to NY and NJ, but it probably happens in other "non-important" states during floods, tornados, etc....but because it's NY and NJ it's a BIG story.

It needs to be.  Get rid of UNIONS once and for all....oh what...that would mean the COLLAPSE of the DUMOCRATIC party....the party of the UNIONS.


Do UNION workers do a better job...I doubt it....

but hey, if they don't want nonunion help...I say....SCREW NY & NJ and every other state that denies ANY kind of help!!!

Nov 2, 2012 3:08PM

Anybody wonders why unions are Pro-Democrats?, why should you bar anybody that is qualified from doing work?................Hopefully we will get rid of this clown of a president we now have

Nov 2, 2012 3:24PM
It's Jersey! If you ever wondered the real reason American jobs when overseas, just ask your beloved Labor Unions! Talk about corruption! They wrote the book on it.
Nov 2, 2012 3:10PM
If the story is false, then why the hell are you headling it "nonunion workers turned away".  That is a blatant example of 'yellow journalism' if I ever saw one...
Nov 2, 2012 3:17PM

Unions should be abolished.  Good workers don't need them so they pay dues for nothing, and protects the lazy, POS good for nothings that should be fired.

Nov 2, 2012 3:07PM
I have just now found out that the turned away power workers are being re-routed to Pa. where they have been welcomed.
Nov 2, 2012 3:12PM
Nothing new. Union or out. Same in Chicago. We built and installed Trade Show exhibits . You had Union Electricians plug them in or you took them home. Usually the Union guy was a relative of the Inspector.
Nov 2, 2012 3:29PM
I was in a union right out of high school. IBEW actually.  They still send me information. The last packet was a list basically saying who and what initiatives I should vote for, as well as an Obama 2012 sticker. 
Then I worked at a gravel company after that for 5 years. We won a bid for a large freeway project. Then the Stimuls funds came in, and we lost it because our company wasn't unionized.  Now there's a lot of overpaid people leaning on shovels and I had to find a new job.
Nov 2, 2012 3:08PM

not a big fan of unions.  I always wanted my pay to be based on MY merit not some suits vote for all employees.  You could be in the union and be a slug and still make as much as the top dog.  Sounds fair doesn't it?


I feel any job paying twice or three times the minimum wage should not have unions.  But that is MY opinion

Nov 2, 2012 3:26PM
Unions are a joke!! Really folks? You are going to turn down help just because they don't belong to a union? RETARDS!!
Nov 2, 2012 3:19PM
The story is true. Even if nonunion employees are allowed they will be harassed and denied work. I have already been denied work, 30 year journeyman lineman.
Nov 2, 2012 3:27PM

Unions have "work-ruled" their people out of jobs, and sent it all over to China & India.  Don't ever forget why many manufacturer's fold.  They do so by out-of-control unions, holding the company hostage, and ya know what; "they call their bluff!!"


Just ask Pan Am, Eastern Airlines, TWA, and a host of other "name brands" that aren't any longer.....  And Obama is right in bed with them!!!


Real Recovery - 2012 - Romney/Ryan!!

Nov 2, 2012 3:17PM
This is not a political issue as much as you want it to be.  This is simply greed and arrogance.  These nonunion utility workers have been turned away, for reasons unknown, and not told which areas could need their assistance.  That is sad, because it is getting bitter cold in that area and are these idiots gonna let people freeze to death just because of union affiliation?
Nov 2, 2012 3:19PM
Now, the good ole unions can't allow help for people who are hurting.......  This is what the Chicago, Democratic Machine does for ya!
Nov 2, 2012 3:04PM
I live in Mississippi and the attempt at downplay is a scam they were not only turned down in Alabama for that reason but also in Mississippi after driving all that way they were rudely turned away,this comes from the head of Alabama power and the head of Signing River power association and Mississippi power. Now you see at how blatantly we are beibg controlled with information. Dont listen to claims of over exageration in the report its false and misleading at 6:00 am news it was the lead in story.If you listen to reports of false claims your being mislead.
Nov 2, 2012 3:13PM
they were turned away and thats as acurate as it gets ,now they have time to think they are scrambling to control it with acusations of lying and its not the way it happened and they were safety concerns and blah blah blah ,as many huricanes we get here out of state power help is a blessing I have always welcomed .In Katrina we in my neighborhood made lunch and cool drinks for the power line workers from New York,it was great to see them.A out of state power lineman was electrocuted in Katrina aftermath ,he was from a Northern State here to help,we all felt his familys loss
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