A team of Alabama utility workers said they were prevented from helping restore power in New Jersey because of regulations that required them to be members of a union.
Officials with Decatur Utilities told FOX Business that their workers were confronted by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers when they arrived at a staging area to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The Alabama team was given documents by IBEW officials that “required our folks to affiliate with the union,” said Ray Hardin, general manager of the utility.
“That was something we could not agree to,” Hardin told FOX Business. “It was our understanding and still is that it was a requirement for us to work in that area.”
The utility company said they sent a six-man crew to a staging area in Virginia. They were scheduled to repair electrical service in Seaside Heights, NJ.
While at the staging area, the team received documents from IBEW that implied the workers would have to agree to affiliate with the union while working in the New York City and New Jersey areas.
“We chose we could not agree to those documents and began looking for other areas that could use our assistance without those conditions,” Hardin told FOX.
A spokesman from the IBEW said the union is “checking out the source of the story and trying to ascertain the facts.”
As they were waiting for clarification on the union affiliation, the crews received word that Seaside Heights had received the assistance they needed from other sources.
“To be clear, at no time were our crews turned away from the utility in Seaside Heights,” said the utility company in a written statement.
The workers tried to contact other areas to see if they needed assistance — but eventually decided to return to Alabama.
“Based on the uncertainty of union requirements that we could not agree to and the uncertainty of whether a resolution could be reached, we ultimately made the decision to return them to Decatur after being stalled in the Virginia area most of the day on Thursday,” the statement read.
Earlier reports indicated two other Alabama utilities — Huntsville Utilities and Joe Wheeler Cooperative — were also turned away from New Jersey due to union discrimination. However, those utilities have since denied those reports.
With reporting from Fox Business