Union members are demanding an apology from the leader of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant.
The dustup stemmed from a letter written by Amy Roe last month to the University of Delaware’s Board of Trustees. Roe has served as the frontwoman for NRAPP.
In the April 2 letter, Roe largely outlined her objections to the proposed 279 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant. The Data Centers, LLC wants to build the combined heat and power plant on site to run its state-of-the-art data center on UD’s STAR campus.
However, one paragraph in the letter caught the attention of AFL-CIO President Sam Lathem. Referencing a March Newark Board of Adjustment hearing concerning the zoning for the power plant, Roe wrote about 700 union laborers, boiler makers and electricians who attended the hearing took seats away from Newark residents and some smelled of alcohol.
Roe continued, “Many acted in a manner that was intimidating. These are the people that The Data Centers LLC will invite into our community to build their power plant.”
Lathem highlighted a portion of that paragraph that read, “I now worry for the safety of the young women who attend UD … Are we about to return to those days when I had to fear to walk through my neighborhood after dark?”
Lathem, who’s African-American, described the letter not only as “classist” and “elitist,” but also “racist,” given that the majority of the laborers in local 199 are African-American.
“Dr. Roe’s inflammatory and hyperbolic letter insults so many of the good people of Newark and Delaware, people who work with their hands, in blue-collar industries, who might or might not be supportive of the Data Center, but certainly do not deserve to be treated as some type of unequal citizen, unworthy of a seat at a public hearing or a job in their own community.” Lathem said.
New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock described Roe’s letter as insulting.
“Dr. Roe’s letter represents the absolute worst kind of class-based elitism, one that characterizes construction workers as some type of dangerous, uncivilized animal to be avoided and even separated from the educated class.”
Lathem and Bullock have called on the university and the membership of NRAPP to officially and publicly condemn what Roe wrote and to disassociate themselves from her in an effort to mend the wounds they say her remarks inflicted.
Roe did not respond to an email request for comment on the letter, instead, Jen Wallace who is a member of NRAPP spoke on Roe’s behalf. Wallace defended Roe’s character and said Roe is shocked by these charges.
“We all say things that maybe we could’ve worded differently, but how this letter has been used is really just unacceptable,” Wallace said. “I think to imply what has been implied is just ridiculous.”
Wallace said Roe’s private letter came not long after an emotionally charged Board of Adjustment hearing.
“Amy [Roe], clearly, and myself and many other residents felt, really did feel intimidated by not only the sheer volume of union members … but also by some, and certainly not all, but some union members who were acting less than respectfully,” Wallace said, adding she was called a name she did not want to repeat.
“And so they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys because we were able to get our members out and be there for a cause that they believed in that’s related to jobs,” Lathem questioned.
Wallace called this latest brouhaha a veiled attempt to send a message to Newark residents that if you speak out your words can be used against you and to try to change the story in favor of the power plant.
Lathem countered the argument has nothing to do with the proposed data center and CHP, and everything to do with Roe’s comments about working men and women.