HUNTSVILLE, Al. - Officials from Huntsville Utilities, Joe Wheeler EMC and Decatur Utilities say they were not turned away by the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) for refusing to unionize. 

A media firestorm erupted this morning after other local media outlets reported that utility crews from the Tennessee Valley were turned away after arriving in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

WAAY 31's Shea Allen spoke with Ray Hardin, General Manager at Decatur Utilities, this morning. Hardin says "Its unfortunate that some comments from employees there were taken out of context."

Hardin says communication was difficult from the start and after their crews were stalled for more than a day, they made the decision to bring them home. He says the union never presented them with any agreement but that a state agency did warn them of potential problems with assisting union utility crews. 

"I think its possible that an issue like this can be sensationalized and blown out a little bit. Its an election year. A union versus non union issue makes a lot of headlines and its really not that," says Hardin. 

Hardin says they were never presented with an agreement asking them to join the union and that the issue is quickly being turned into something political. 

Bill Yell with Huntsville Utilities says it is typical for "agreements" to be signed between power companies in disaster affected areas and the crews that come in from out of town to assist in the recovery.

"Its not a you just show up hey we're here...where do you want to start. You have to work out all those agreements before or as you are getting ready to go," says Yell.

Yell says typically, the local power authorities use FEMA money to reimburse assisting electrical crews for the wages they pay their employees. "There's a lot of things that have to be worked out when you do mutual aid. You have to have pay scales because we're going to pay our crews but then the union utility that we are working for is going to reimburse us," he explains. 

Yell says these types of agreements are usually time consuming and arduous. He says the downed phone lines and lack of internet connection has made these agreements much more difficult. 

A representative with IBEW says they are not requiring crews to "unionize" and that they never turned any assisting power crew away. They say both union and non-union crews are assisting in the recovery effort. 

IBEW issued a statement saying quote, "It is the policy of this union and the companies we represent to welcome assistance during major natural disasters - regardless of union status." 


UPDATED: 11/2/2012 at 4:51 p.m. to include quotes 

(7) comments


Let me understand this. The reason Huntsville and Decatur Ultilties could not help in New York is because there was no agreement signed? Tell that to people in New York when who will not have power next Wednesday November 10.

bebod trazapper
bebod trazapper

Did you read the page ? They brought their people home,you do not just show up and say ok here I am .And expect to work, try that any place.You have to go thru the correct chanels.union or nonunion ...


It wouldn't suprise me if the union did turn the non-union workers away. Lazy union workers have that entitlement mentality. "This is a union job" !. Lol no jobs are union jobs. Non-union workers are THE BEST choice for any job, they're in competition mode! Fast, done right and ready for the next!HUNGRY! Union workers,"cant fire me" ,slow, lazy, dont get nothin done. Stay away from them.---Contractor.


It's very unfortunate that you have no understanding of how unions work. If you cannot get the job done, you will be sent "down the road". I have seen it happen, union contractors have no time for goldbrickers, they are out there to make money and we are there to make money for them. Pride in our work and expertise put us on top. Your false generalizations are another example of 100 years of anti union propaganda.

bebod trazapper
bebod trazapper

Please,people like you will bring us back to 1930's.
if you want to work for a living wage wake up ,that is what the union is about.
I worked nonunion and seen both sides of the fence people like you are narrow
minded and believe all the bureaucratic bull put out their.sad.
Just look at safety issues the union is their to protect the worker.
And how about Qualified workers union workers are trained and held to a higher standard,(licenced workers)
We fight for people like you if you like it or not,you at some point have received some benefit of the union fight.


Ray Hardin said on the phone to Fox News that they were presented with papers from IBEW requiring them to affiliate. What's different now?


Here's the story from - seems like a lot of red tape in the whole mess and the people of NJ are paying the price.

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