New Jersey: Unions More Important Than People?

Hurricane Sandy may only have been a Category 1 storm when it made landfall along the New Jersey coast earlier this week, but it appears to be the second costliest hurricane in American history behind Katrina.  The storm, dubbed by some as Frankenstorm, flooded hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses all along the eastern seaboard.  At its height, over 7 million people were without power.

The damage to power lines and substations was epic and required the help of electrical companies from all over the country.

Seaside Heights, New Jersey, was one of those communities that were hit hard by the storm.  Located on the Barnegat Peninsula in Ocean County, the almost 3,000 residents had no power, no gas and no water, except what was flooding their homes.  The town leaders sent out requests for help to restore power to the coastal borough.

A crew from Decatur Utilities from Alabama answered the call and traveled up to Seaside Heights and started to work on the downed power lines.  However, it was not long before they were told to pack up and go back home.  It turns out that the Decatur company received paperwork requiring them to have union affiliation before they would be allowed to work in New Jersey.

Ray Hardin, general manager for Decatur Utilities said that although his crews were not directly turned away, the paperwork they received made it clear that they were not welcome unless they had some form of union affiliation.

Jim Spellane, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) national office said they had no knowledge of the paperwork that Decatur Utilities received and were launching an investigation into the matter.

In a later interview, Hardin claimed that the incident had nothing to do with union vs. non-union, but if that was the case, why did they receive the union paperwork to begin with?

I’ve seen that kind of union mentality first hand before.  Some years back, the local IBEW union went on strike at the utility in my home state, which happens to be a right-to-work state.  When non-union employees tried to go to work, union employees got real nasty and there was some violence.  When one non-union person told them that if they didn’t work they would lose their house and not be able to feed their kids, the union people said they didn’t care.

I saw the miner’s union go on strike with the copper mines and it lasted 9 months.  There was one interval when the union representatives would not talk with the mining company for two months.  During that time hundreds of miners were losing their homes and being evicted.  The union reps continued to get paid for not trying to negotiate, while the workers they were representing were losing everything.  The integrity and power of the union was more important than the people the union was supposed to protect.

This is one of the main reasons I despise unions.  They may have served a purpose years ago, but in many places today, they have forced wages and benefits so high that companies are forced to scale back, close their doors or move to a right-to-work state or another country.  When the company takes those measures in order to stay in business, the unions blame the company owners instead of themselves.

I believe what happened to the Decatur Utility crew in Seaside Heights, New Jersey had everything to do with union and someone, whether officially or not officially, sent those papers to stop the non-union crew from helping the local residents in their time of need.