AFT Unions March in Solidarity with Shipyard Workers

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demonstrating at Avondale shipyard

Members of four AFT affiliates in Louisiana—United Teachers of New Orleans, Jefferson Federation of Teachers, St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers—marched Oct. 1 in solidarity with workers at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, which is under threat of closing.

It was a true Second Line parade, with marchers stepping out behind the Treme Brass Band and a grand marshal replete with umbrella, all members of the musicians' union. Hundreds of workers and community supporters met at the Superdome and marched down Poydras Street for a rally at the federal building.

The shipyard workers live in Jefferson Parish and surrounding communities, and their children attend local public schools. Educators already are seeing the ravages of past rounds of budget cuts and the effect they have on students. If the shipyards close, this dire situation will become even worse, so AFT members are doing their best to be there for the workers and their families. (More information about the fight to save Avondale is available online.)

demonstrating at Avondale shipyard

"We all need Avondale, and American business needs more ships," UTNO said in its call to march. "We want to know what elected leaders and the Avondale owners are doing to keep the shipyard open. Our community, our students and our jobs depend on it."

Under President Obama's proposed jobs legislation, Louisiana employers would be able to cut the payroll tax in half, to 3.1 percent, on the first $5 million in wages. The American Jobs Act also would send $434 million to Louisiana to support the jobs of up to 6,300 educators and first responders. In addition, the president is proposing a $25 billion investment in upgrading school infrastructure, which would yield $517 million for Louisiana and as many as 6,700 jobs statewide.

Teachers and school support personnel alike realize that the shipyard's closing would hit the New Orleans area economically and harm the public schools, says Laura Harper, PSRP chair of the Jefferson federation. "Many of our members have spouses who worked at the yard and have already been laid off," she says. "They can't find other jobs, so they are living on unemployment and the salary of the PSRP member, which tops out, for a paraprofessional, at $23,500. We need the American Jobs Act." [Annette Licitra/photos by Nijme Rinaldi Nun]

View more photos from the march in our Facebook album.

October 4, 2011