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 3:26PM
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Unions are a joke!! Really folks? You are going to turn down help just because they don't belong to a union? RETARDS!!
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What's that smell?  It's the Garden State, New Jersey and it's stinking Unions.
Nov 2, 2012 3:25PM
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Unions are worse than the Russian Mob!  Something obama knows a lot about.  Just ask Putin.
Nov 2, 2012 3:25PM
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Of course companies deny the workers. As soon as a nonunion person shows up to work, and is allowed to work, a union employee files a grievance and the nonunion employee is asked by the company to leave because they can't afford the legal fight.
Nov 2, 2012 3:24PM
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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 3:24PM
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What is real? The story is very ambiguous.  Without the union the democRATic party would be doomed to the former Soviet Union.
Nov 2, 2012 3:24PM
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Let New Jersey go to hades, the people and the weather there are as cold as hell
Nov 2, 2012 3:23PM
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rche7556; "Bull-crap!!"  This isn't the 30's, 40's or 50's anymore
Nov 2, 2012 3:22PM
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Well kiddies; "does this surprise you??"  Remember, with you taxpayer-funded bailout of GM, you now pay for the GM Union pensions, and cadillac health care plan, while YOU get Obamacare, and "maybe" 401k, and (really maybe) social security!

 

And they still make schitty cars!!

Nov 2, 2012 3:21PM
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in reading these comments, it is clear people did not read the article.  The article clearly states the workers are NOT being turned away and once again, FOX news is missreporting a story.

 

Wake up you Fox sheep and see that you are getting screwed.  I can't wait until Romney does away with obamacare and you all wake up to realize you are back to being at the will of the insurance companies.  Ha.

Nov 2, 2012 3:19PM
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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 3:19PM
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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 3:19PM
Nov 2, 2012 3:18PM
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this is why the union brotherhood's all must go!
Nov 2, 2012 3:18PM
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Bunch of cry babies if it were not for the Unions you MORONS would still be making a Buck sixty an hour with NO benefits. Just comes to show how ignorant most REPUBLICANS are.
Nov 2, 2012 3:18PM
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WELCOME TO THE  WORLD DO AWAY WITH ALL UNIONS COST S  WOULD GO DOWN AND BETTER SERVICE.
Nov 2, 2012 3:18PM
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Here we are, held hostahe by GM unions who are still paying the Cadillac health care & gold-plated UNION pensions for their retirees (both past & present), that YOU, the taxpayers are subsidizing!!

 

We don't get that!  We get Obamacare, and 401k - "NO GUARANTEES!!"

 

Oh, BTW; you do know Obama exempted congress and himself from Obamacare, don't you!?!

Nov 2, 2012 3:17PM
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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 3:17PM
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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 3:15PM
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someone(jdmeck)

 

did you read the story, ****? the story says it a lie put out by the REPUBLICANS

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