Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Louisiana Worshippers Offer Prayers for Avondale Workers

September 14th, 2011 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallWhen a member of a congregation falls on hard times, it’s not unusual for church members to offer up their prayers. But it is unusual for 120 congregations spanning denominations to send prayers for recovery to a shipyard and the 5,000 people its closure is putting out of work.

That’s what happened this past weekend across southern Louisiana during the Pray for Avondale Weekend organized by the Save Our Shipyard campaign, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and, before they returned to school earlier this month, the New Orleans AFL-CIO Union Summer team.

Last year, Northrop Grumman announced it was closing the shipyard and began laying off its 5,000-member skilled workforce. In March, it spun off the shipyard to its newly created company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, and now the workforce is down to 3,000 who are building the final ship on the yard’s order book.

The Rev. Jim VanderWeele, minister of Community Church Unitarian Universalist in New Orleans and the IWJ coordinator there, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that one of the values of prayer is that it draws people together.

It draws them into a texture of attitudinal change. And that’s as valuable on earth as the words we lift up. And if the words we lift up do make contact with that mysterious entity that none of us understands, and we’re blessed as a result, then that blessing is certainly valued.

On Oct. 1, the Save Our Shipyard coalition will hold a march and rally in New Orleans urging state and federal officials to work with them to keep the yard open and enable the thousands of skilled workers to remain on the job. Joining them will be Percy Pyne, CEO of American Feeder Lines, who wants to build commercial vessels at the Avondale yard.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on September 13, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. He carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He’s also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold blood plasma, and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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