Bill Yell, spokesman for Huntsville Utilities, said nine of his employees are currently helping with recovery from Hurricane Sandy and had no union-related issues.The Huntsville Utilities spokesman also points out that you can't just show up and dive into working on power lines at random, because not every system is the same: "You don't just go up there and say, 'Hey, we're here. We're going to start putting up poles for you.'" (This obviously makes you wonder if some people have been turned away from working to restore power in affected areas, not because they weren't union members but because they showed up thinking it shouldn't matter if they knew the local system configurations or if they'd shown up in a place where more workers were even needed.)
"That's a rumor," he said. "We are starting work this morning with Long Island Power Authority. We were headed to a New Jersey utility but they had all the crews they could handle."
A spokeswoman for Joe Wheeler Electrical Membership Cooperative said the crews from Trinity also are assisting with storm recovery and, in fact, are unionized.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Ed Hill said in a statement:
It is the policy of this union and the companies we represent to welcome assistance during major natural disasters—regardless of union status.But despite a lack of evidence that any qualified workers were turned away from helping, and denials that this happened from representatives of the union, two of the utility companies named in the rumors, and all sorts of representatives of New Jersey utility companies, this rumor will likely become an article of faith in anti-union circles.
There have been reports that a nonunion crew was turned away from work in New Jersey. At this stage, it is not clear who is alleged to have turned the crew away and the company that employs the affected workers has denied the claim. IBEW local leaders in New Jersey have reiterated what has been the long standing record of our union—in times of crisis all help is welcome and we pull together with everyone to meet the needs of the public.