New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed the Alabama utility controversy during his afternoon press conference on Friday.
In short, he says the Alabama workers were on their way to New Jersey and called someone (it’s unknown who) while in Virginia. That’s when they were told they couldn’t help if they were non-union. Christie says they were given “bad information,” and such a requirement does not exist. He also said he’s talked with all the power companies involved and assured the public that if such a requirement was in place, he would exercise his power as governor to override it.
Original story below.
Earlier this morning, TheBlaze reported on a story claiming that non-union utility workers from Alabama had been turned away from New Jersey communities in dire need of help. That story went viral as many wondered how a union could be so calloused in the face of a major disaster like the one still unfolding in the Garden State.
The Blaze contacted NJ Governor Chris Christie’s office to ask about this allegation. We await an official response. One Blaze source (who is also a NJ resident) called the Governor’s office to complain about rejecting any help. She claims that she was initially told:
“this was not true and the Govenor’s office was looking into who spread the rumor.”
A follow-up call provided a slightly different twist, as the Governor’s people reportedly told our source:
“The story is probably true, and the Governor is working on it.”
Shortly before 3pm ET, Governor Christie’s office gives us an official statement on this issue:
“We are welcoming whatever help comes in, union or non-union, to assist with the recovery.”
The governor’s official statement, while helpful going forward, doesn’t exactly address what may have happened in the past.
In the meantime, the Newark Star Ledger is reporting that NJ unions are not blocking the workers:
“We take crews as they become available,” said Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light. “Everyone understands this is an all-hands-on-deck event.” He(Morano) said crews from throughout the nation were now working in JCP&L’s service area, including from California, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina.
The Alabama utility company seems to contradict that statement. From the Decatur Utilities press release on the issue:
Decatur Utilities sent a 6-man crew to the Northeast Wednesday, October 31st, bound for Seaside Heights, NJ, to assist with power restoration. Communications with Seaside Heights was poor due to lack of cell phone service in the area. Upon arriving at a staging area in Virginia, crews were held in place pending clarification of documents received from IBEW that implied a requirement of our employees to agree to union affiliation while working in the New York and New Jersey areas. It was and remains our understanding that agreeing to those requirements was a condition of being allowed to work in those areas.
Further investigation into the story first carried by WAFF TV in Alabama has confirmed what the press release states.
Is it possible that the Decatur Utilities crew was turned away for not joining the IBEW? Yes. And there are many people involved who are saying that’s exactly what happened.
Additionally, last night on Fox Business, Ray Hardin, the general manager of Decatur Utilities explained the issue to Stuart Varney. Stating that the company’s crews were in a staging area in Virginia when the IBEW sent documents requiring union membership before they could do any work. The company would not agree to unionizing their employees at this time and told their employees to return home to Alabama.