We've seen the pictures of utility crews from all over the country that have come to our aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But union red tape and turf wars may have delayed their arrival, and kept people in the dark even longer.
The residents of Oceanside, Long Island were angry when they heard the news. It was bad enough that after two weeks since surging waters from Sandy flooded many of their homes, they were still without power.
The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) says it was contacted by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) requesting crews.
It immediately organized 135 repair crews. But, the head of the FMEA that they were then told to call a LIPA union and get an OK before coming to Long Island.
"I thought it was a little unusual but I called over there and talked to the folks at the IBEW," Executive Director Barry Moline said. "And they wanted us to sign a contract that effectively had us joining the union for a month."
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049 sent a letter saying "...UTILITY shall contribute 22.5% of each employee's gross salary into the union's Craft Annuity Fund." Another three percent was needed to be given to the union's "Skill Improvement Fund" and an additional three percent to the "National Electrical Benefit Fund." On top of that, the union wanted another $9.75 per work hour to be given to the Union Health and Welfare Fund.
It also required utilities to deduct one percent of each worker's pay for union dues.
The agreement even asked for $.01 per worker, per hour for the "National Labor Management Cooperation Committee".
In all, more than 31.75% percent of a worker's pay would go to the union.
Instead of negotiating with the union, the FMEA sent most of their crews to Pennsylvania.
The situation wasn't resolved until the American Public Power Association, which represents 2,000 power companies, intervened and got the union to drop its demands.
The union told Fox 5 News that the letters of assent were not mandatory and LIPA says no crew was turned away but it did create an unnecessary delay.
"We lost four days in not being able to get our line workers to Long Island," says Moline.