Booming Business at Alabama Shipyard Fuels New Union Campaign

by  Bruce Vail

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The Austal shipyard in Mobile, Alabama specializes in building littoral combat ships like the USS Independence. (Austal)

Rapid business growth may be the key to finally unionizing shipbuilding workers in Mobile, Ala., where an Australia-based defense contractor has successfully fought union organizing for more than a decade.

That’s the estimation of Ron Ault, President of the AFL-CIO’S Metal Trades Department (MTD), an umbrella group for unions representing boilermakers, machinists, pipefitters, and other skilled shipbuilding workers from around the country. “There is a boom in Gulf Coast shipyards now,” Ault says, and high demand for skilled workers may give unions a foothold. Gulf shipyards are recruiting workers from all parts of the country, including heavily unionized areas, and the presence of this whole new generation of workers is a real opportunity for labor organizing, according to Ault. Continue reading