With State and Federal Assistance, Huntington Ingalls to Explore Options for Avondale Conversion; Save Our Shipyard Coalition Hails New Developments.
"This is good news for the people of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana—indeed America," declared Metal Trades Department President Ron Ault, welcoming the announcement that Huntington Ingalls will collaborate with state and federal authorities to explore options to transition Avondale. One of those options would be converting the facility into a commercial shipyard. "We look forward to working with the state and all our stakeholders to maintain Avondale as the largest private employer in the state and as a pathway to the middle class for future generations," Ault said.
The company announcement comes in the wake of an agreement worked out between Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Louisiana Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond to focus the use of federal restructuring funds to maintain jobs at the shipyard. "We're extremely grateful to Sen. Landrieu, Rep. Richmond, President Obama, Secretary Mabus and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as well as Gov. Bobby Jindal and all the community stakeholders who have worked with to get us to this point," Ault added.
Ault stressed that whatever conversion takes place will be a long and difficult process. He cited a multitude of stakeholders that have been at work for the past 18 months to keep Avondale as a functioning shipyard. "We've worked, hoped and prayed for the shipyard and for the jobs that the shipyard provides," Ault said. The stakeholder coalition that mobilized the community in support of Avondale includes the unions and their leadership, academics from Tulane, Loyola, Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans; religious leaders from every denomination in Louisiana, elected officials from the city and parishes nearby, small business owners, including the Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce, and even school children in the region.
The Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO represents some 5,000 hourly workers at the shipyard whose jobs have been in doubt since last May when Avondale announced plans to close the shipyard when Northrop Grumman spun off its shipbuilding division creating Huntington Ingalls.