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.


522Comments
Nov 2, 2012 3:48PM
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You fools know nothing of how a union works. Do a little reading and turn off Fox News. You may learn something.
Nov 2, 2012 3:48PM
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"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."

This is what the company said for those of  you whom it would take 1/2 hour to read a page.
Nov 2, 2012 3:46PM
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I heard the union workers calling the non union workers scabs and scum**** on tape. MSN news is nothing but lying Obama propaganda spin.  This is no different from your ignoring and spinning Obama's  refusal to rescue our Seals and ambassador in Libya. 
Nov 2, 2012 3:45PM
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More right-wing, made-up news to demonize unions.  Take a misunderstanding and turn it into a slanted piece bashing the union.  Before you trolls get your panties in a bunch, read the whole story: there is no indication that anyone was turned away from working based on not belonging to a union, period. 
Nov 2, 2012 3:44PM
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The truth has become a  very rare and precious commodity in our society today.
Nov 2, 2012 3:43PM
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Jeff E. your unions hefty wages and pensions are why the jobs are going overseas
Nov 2, 2012 3:43PM
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The story is true. Companies are bringing in nonunion, unions are fileing grievances against the company using nonunion people. Which forces the companies to let the nonunion people go. Basically telling them to leave. Companies can not afford the arbitrations.
Nov 2, 2012 3:42PM
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Is Sandy an act of God or others.................and the crazy man by the sea replied, "Our name is Legion, for we are many."  And they begged Jesus not to destroy them and so Jesus let the Demons inhabit the bodies of pigs who then ran into the sea and drowned. 

As a nation, do we let people drown because they became owned by Demons?  Or do we save the souls who are here by God's will, not the Devil's temptations?  Who are we America?  Money hoarders or warriors for God?  The semantics of faith, divides faith into the faithless.  When we use Christ the King as opposed to Christ the Living God and Lamb and Messenger of God's Will, become demoted that that of Roman, French or English Titles of Entitlement and thus pseudo-honours, then we have failed to do God's will, but rather do man's.  It is time to do God's will.  It is time to save lives no matter the costs...............................God will provide the means to the men of true honours wherever they be, and without titles of hypocrisy.  Pay foreward..................save those who cannot save themselves!

Nov 2, 2012 3:41PM
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What do you expect from a state where it is illegal to pump your own gas?
Nov 2, 2012 3:40PM
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The electrical workers are there to help get the electricity turned on. The storm victims just want the power turned on, they don't care if it is done by union or nonunion workers. It is disgraceful for people who are there only to help to be turned away because they are nonunion. That's idiotic.
Nov 2, 2012 3:40PM
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This is what happens when you're dealing with a bunch of Union thugs and dumbazz yankees !! 
Nov 2, 2012 3:40PM
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P.S. Keep repeating what you've heard everyone else say. That makes you sound smarter. = /
Nov 2, 2012 3:40PM
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At one time, unions made greedy corporations pay a reasonable wage, now unions are so greedy that they want to control whatever place they have infiltrated and set up shop.  The sad thing is is that people who are "unionized," are stupid enough to believe that they NEED the union.  They don't.  When the poor shlub is working and the union has their hands in the guy's pockets decrying they need more, more, more to keep their jobs safe, the honchos are living large and being driven around in limos while the shlub is trying to make a living.  Unions are too powerful and should be eradicated.  They have too much say so in how a person(s) run(s) their own company!  Then you have union sympathizers that want more, more, more in wages and benefits and what they wind up with is no job at all because the company can't afford to keep going on unrealistic demands.  Every person deserves a job whether they are union or not, and to keep one from working because he chooses not to participate in union ripoffs, is his right as an individual.  Whether you are a republican or a democrat, the union supports whomever they deem necessary to carry on their own corrupt agenda, and they are the most corrupt bunch of bastards on the planet.
Nov 2, 2012 3:40PM
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The unions in NJ could care less about the storm damage. All they want is a captured audience of people that will need construction repair done for months to come and they want to make sure everyone is paying them their normal union wages of $121.12 per hour for skilled labor. Then the Alabama guys come along and will work for lower wages to help the millions of people who need power and construction repairs....they are not allowed to work in New Jersey!! Unions win....the citizens of NJ lose. And Obama said he would cut through the RED TAPE....looks like he failed again!!
Nov 2, 2012 3:39PM
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For those of you who have no idea how union labor works.....The utlility job was probably already contracted by a contractor that was a union shop.  This would not be any different if union guys tried to go work on a non-union contracted job site.  If a non union laboror wants to work on a union contracted site, all they have to do is go to the hall and sign the appropriate book or sign in sheet to go to work.  There is no blocking of work or jobs.  When there is this much work that needs to be done all the guys and gals get put to work.  There is no "liberal conspiracy"!  I am sure you who comment in that way are sitting in a safe job atmosphere, working your 8 hour day, have had your lunch and break and maybe have some benefits and some vacation time.  Guess who fought for those things?  Read you history and quit sucumbing to propagandic ****.....
Nov 2, 2012 3:39PM
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Sniff Sniff Sniff anyone else smell Karl Rove?

Nov 2, 2012 3:38PM
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Good for the union guys standing together, reminds me of the NRA nuts. If you have some power, use it to your advantage.

Nov 2, 2012 3:38PM
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What do any of YOU know about unionism? 99% of you have no affiliation and have no experience to base your ignorant comments and opinions on. Union workers are regular people who were blessed enough to have the sense to stand together for whats right and whats fair. You hate unions and make silly comments about how unions are ruining this nation and are outdated. If you truly believe that you're company cares about you then your mistaken. Read a little history about how workers were treated in this country until the 1930's when "we the people" finally got tired of being bullied and KILLED by our employers. Unionism is about protecting your neighbor and your family. You get rid of OUR right to stand together and they have divided US and then THEY have won. To think that YOU'RE alright with that.... Where are all the free minds and spirits this country once had?
Nov 2, 2012 3:38PM
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Unions are the downfall of the American worker.  What company in their right mind would want to locate in a union state?  
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