Update: Utility companies deny, clarify reports that crews were turned away

Representatives from Alabama utility companies are denying and clarifying recent reports that their crew members were turned away from storm recovery in New Jersey because they are non-union.

Reports have mentioned Huntsville Utilities, Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler EMC as companies that were shut out of efforts in Superstorm Sandy's wake. George Kitchens, general manager of Joe Wheeler EMC, tells ABC 33/40 the claim is completely false, and eight of his crew members who were sent to Maryland are on their way back to Alabama. Kitchens also says all of his crew members are union. A spokesperson from Huntsville Utilities has also denied claims, saying their crews are not in New Jersey and have experienced no problems.

As for Decatur Utilities, a press release confirms that sixDecatur Utilities workers were not in New Jersey but members of the International Brotherhood ofElectrical Workers stopped them in Virginia and asked them to sign papers in order to assist.


The release reads in part, "It was and remains our understanding that agreeing to those requirements was a conditionof being allowed to work in those areas. As we waited for clarification, webecame aware that Seaside Heights had received the assistance they needed fromother sources. To be clear, at no time were our crews 'turned away' from theutility in Seaside Heights."

To read the full press release from Decatur Utilities:

Keisa Sharpe, a spokesperson from Alabama Power, says the company has received calls from media outlets about crew members being turned away too. Sharpe tells ABC 33/40 all of their workers are union and have not experienced any union or non-union issues.

Media reports about reported union issues:

Calls to Decatur Utilities have not yet been returned.

ABC 33/40 will continue to update this story as it develops.