CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB-TV) -- With millions of mid-Atlantic residents in the dark after Superstorm Sandy, Chattanooga's Electric Power Board (EPB), a unionized organization, has been assisting in the nationwide effort to restore power.
Assistant Vice President of Operations Wendell Boring says a small crew has been in New Jersey for about a week, including some non-contract workers who arrived free of red tape.
"We have never experienced anything like that," says Boring about past non-union crews released by EPB. The non-union workers are from Pike Electric and Davis H. Elliot.
Whether it's non-union crews from EPB or elsewhere headed out of state to help after a disaster, Boring says it should be fairly easy getting them there, but that may depend on where they're going. Labor laws differ from state to state.
Tennessee is a "right to work" state, meaning you don't have to be in a union to work for a company which is unionized. This makes it a little easier to send and receive help.
After the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes, power crews--both union and non-union--from 19 states came to the Tennessee Valley without a hitch, and EPB didn't waste a moment putting them to work.
"In a storm situation, they basically say we're here and here's how many people we've got, how many truck we've got, where do you want us to go," says Boring. "And we say thank you for coming. We're glad you're here."
There's only one goal in mind.
"Our objective's to get the lights on. We're not really worried about whether you're union or not," explains Boring.
An employee of Alabama-based Decatur Utilities claims his crew was denied the opportunity to help in New Jersey because they weren't unionized. Company officials deny this claim, saying they returned home because enough help arrived before the crew could get there.
Boring says this has happened to him in the past, but union issues have never played a part. "We have had this happen on occasion where we have sent a crew and before they get there they'll get a call saying we don't need you," says Boring.
He adds EPB has had to do the same to groups en route to our region.
Boring says the crews are expected to be back in time for Thanksgiving.