Confusion Causes Non-Union Utility Crew from Alabama From Helping NJ Sandy Victims: Report

After a day in Va., confused crew returns home

By Danielle Johnson and Dan Stamm
|  Saturday, Nov 3, 2012  |  Updated 12:41 AM EDT
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Amusement rides lie mangled after the Fun Town pier they sat on was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy on November 1, 2012 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. With the death toll continuing to rise and millions of homes and businesses without power, the U.S. east coast is attempting to recover from the effects of floods, fires and power outages brought on by Superstorm Sandy.

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A report that a six-man utility crew from Alabama that arrived in New Jersey to help restore power following Hurricane Sandy were allegedly told to leave because they are not union workers appears to have all been caused by confusion over union documentation.

WAFF.com originally reported that crew with Hunstville Utilities and Joe Wheeler Electrical Membership Cooperative made their way to Seaside Heights, N.J. this week to help get power back on for thousands of residents left in the dark. But the groups were told by crews in New Jersey that they cannot do any work because they are non-union employees, according to the report.

WAFF later reported that they whole incident appeared to be a confusion over union documentation and that the crew would have been welcomed.

Per WAFF.com:

Bottom line, it appears now that Decatur Utilities wrongly assumed they would have to agree to the union contract before traveling to New Jersey to help with recovery efforts. The IBEW said in times of crisis, help is welcomed from union and non-union utility workers.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office trumpeted the same idea saying that the incident was caused by "likely confusion about needing the crew at that particular location" and had "nothing to do with being union or non-union workers."

A representative for the two utility companies also said the original story was untrue, according to the Huntsville Times.

WAFF reported that the crew returned home after being stalled in Virginia for much of Thursday.

Seaside Heights suffered an estimated $1 billion dollars in damages from Hurricane Sandy. Many are expected to be without power for the next few days.

As of Friday night, more than hundreds of thousands of people in our area were still without power.

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