by James Parks, Jan 28, 2011

Northrop Grumman is preparing to spin off its shipbuilding business next month, putting 4,000 skilled workers at the Avondale Shipyard in Louisiana out of work. The layoffs would devastate the Gulf region’s economy and the communities dependent on the shipbuilding industry.

At a New Orleans press conference today, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) released a joint letter he sent along with  Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. In the letter, the lawmakers said:

The long-term economic impact of the loss of these jobs goes far beyond the immediate impact on these workers’ families. It will undoubtedly extend deep into the Gulf Coast communities that have yet to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the recent economic downturn and last year’s BP oil spill.

They called on Solis for an expedited assessment of the economic impact of the closing that would measure the total loss of income for the Avondale workers, the availability of jobs requiring similar skills and the cost to retrain workers unable to find jobs that require similar skills.

Merland Farria, president of the Avondale Metal Trades Council, told reporters:

It is encouraging that [Richmond and Landrieu] are demanding answers and getting the federal government involved in trying to save these jobs.

Layoffs began in October 2010, but workers have vowed to continue fighting to save the shipyard so they and thousands of other workers can support their families.