Letter: Let’s rally behind Avondale

The recent news coverage about the future of the Avondale Shipyard has raised more questions than it answered. We — at the Loyola-SUNO-Tulane-UNO Avondale Research Project — are concerned that a decision that will impact many residents is being made behind closed doors. This is doubly troubling since hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are involved.

We believe that Avondale can continue to sustain southern Louisiana. Over decades, the yard has accumulated considerable productive assets. Those assets, many of which are the product of taxpayer money, can be tapped for a productive future.

But this can only happen if the strategies and discussions to keep the yard open are transparent and involve public input. If we have learned anything about Avondale’s recent past, it is that closed-door conversations between the owners and their political allies do not always produce healthy outcomes for the larger community, a community that has invested millions of dollars in a world-class facility.

Discussions about Avondale’s future need to be held in public both because taxpayers have a lot invested in the shipyard, and because input from a wider range of stakeholders will produce a better outcome.

Avondale and its workforce are intertwined with the broader community in countless ways. The findings of the Avondale Research Project show that the workers of Avondale earn excellent wages that support stable families and careers.

As a result they own homes, buy cars, patronize local businesses and pay taxes. These economic, social and civic networks are the lifeblood of our community.

Our research also highlights the potential disaster that awaits us if Avondale is shuttered, not only in terms of the economic stability and well-being of workers and their families, but for local businesses, universities, and the region as a whole.

To date, the owners of Avondale, our local politicians and the union have tried to work out business deals behind closed doors. That strategy has produced some hope, with commercial shipbuilders, Korean investors, and now energy firms interested in the material assets on offer. Yet, the yard is still scheduled to close.

It is time to hold public meetings regarding Avondale’s future. Because we all have invested in Avondale, and because Avondale’s impact on this community is felt far and wide, its future must be good for the broader community and not just the company’s bottom line. Tell us what is happening. Ask for our support. But above all include a broader range of stakeholders in these discussions.

Avondale and the workers in the yard have held this community together through disaster and recession; now it’s time for the community to rally behind Avondale.

Steve Striffler

professor of anthropology

University of New Orleans

New Orleans