IBEW members and hundreds of other workers, union and nonunion, are pulling together to help the Northeast recover from the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. The storm slammed coastal areas with strong winds and high seas, simultaneously flooding business and residential areas while knocking down trees and power lines – all in one of the most densely populated areas of the United States.
The recovery has been a massive effort that deserves praise, but instead, there have been erroneous reports that have cast the heroic efforts of IBEW members in a bad light.
There were reports, sketchy at first but then cobbled together with disconnected facts that formed a false and harmful picture of the recovery efforts.
Specifically, many people have been led to believe that the IBEW turned away nonunion workers from assisting in the restoration work and sought to force them to join the union. The reports are absolutely false and paint a picture of a situation that never existed.
No assistance was ever turned away by the IBEW or any of its employers. Reports that help was denied in New Jersey proved to be totally false, even being denied by those who allegedly were turned away.
(WAAY-TV, “UPDATED: Officials say local utility crews NOT ‘turned away’ in NY/NJ”, 11/2/12)
Some correspondence was sent, prior to the time Sandy hit landfall, by one of the IBEW locals in New York to small utilities that were contacted by the Long Island Power Authority at the urging of the New York Power Authority for assistance. When the full impact of the storm was clear, even these few letters were rescinded by the local, in consultation with the headquarters of the IBEW and the companies, so that they would not present an obstacle to the recovery.
And that recovery is proceeding as union and nonunion crews work together to restore power to the communities of New York and New Jersey and elsewhere – just as they have done emergency situations for nearly a century all across North America. These workers have put themselves in harm’s way to help, and in fact one IBEW member from Canada was killed on the job, and another, from New Jersey seriously injured.
Sandy was a human tragedy that should not be compounded. The men and women in the electrical line trade do not do their jobs to receive thanks and praise. They routinely do their jobs out of the limelight and often under difficult and dangerous conditions. However, neither they nor the organization formed by linemen to improve safety and professionalism in the industry deserve to have their reputations maligned through false and misleading reports.