A Decatur Utilities crew sent to help repair damage from superstorm Sandy has been recalled because crew members didn’t receive assurances they could work without union affiliation.
Ray Hardin, DU general manager, said today there were several factors that led to the crew returning from a northern Virginia staging area, but the union issue “was a significant factor.”
Jerry Keenum, business director of the Alabama district of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he was unaware of any union requirements that would have prevented DU workers from assisting. He said it was his understanding that the rush of linesmen to New England, combined with weather issues, was the only reason some workers were not able to help.
Diversified Services of Hartselle, which is not unionized, has 300 workers in storm-affected areas. A supervisor said the union status of Diversified workers was not an issue, but that many were waiting in hotels until they could be assigned jobs.
DU had sent six people to northern Virginia and they were designated to go help in Seaside Heights, N.J.
Hardin said after the storm, communications with utilities officials in Seaside Heights became difficult and DU started looking at other potential sites for its crew to help. In every potential instance in New York or New Jersey, DU workers would have had to affiliate with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to be eligible to work.
Hardin said DU wasn’t willing to sign documents agreeing to IBEW affiliation. When DU couldn’t get assurances that it would be able to overcome that hurdle and put its crews to work, they were recalled. Hardin said DU workers were never physically barred from helping because they never left their staging area.Huntsville Utilities, which is not unionized, sent nine crew members to Long Island, N.Y., where they are working with Long Island Power Authority. Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp., which is unionized, sent eight linemen to Maryland. They completed their tasks and are on their way home, according to a Joe Wheeler spokesperson.
Bruce McLellan contributed to this article.
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