An arbitrator certified union representation for 4,100 workers at Litton Industries Inc.
's Avondale shipyard in New Orleans. labor sources said. Avondale workers had been locked in a bitter fight with management over union representation since 1993, but when Litton bought the shipyard in August, the company agreed to remain neutral and let workers sign cards indicating they favored a union.
The Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, a federation of U.S. labor organizations, said confirmation of the successful signature drive had been received.
"We will be asking Litton to plan for full-scale negotiations as early as possible in the new year," said a statement by John Meese, president of the national Metal Trades Department
For more than 50 years, Avondale had been the only major non-union shipyard building U.S. Navy and commercial ships.
In recent years, workers filed numerous reports about dangerous working conditions, but the company's previous management accused federal inspectors of assisting the union in its organizing drive.
In April this year, federal safety regulators proposed over $500,000 in fines.
John Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO, said the successful petition was built on workers' unwavering courage. "When given the chance to form a union absent employer opposition, Avondale workers enthusiastically embraced the opportunity," Sweeney said.