AN APRIL U.S. DEPARTMENT of Transportation announcement means good news for Local 19 (Philadelphia) Boilermakers at Philly Shipyard: A U.S. DOT contract for up to five national security multi-mission vessels has been awarded to TOTE Services. TOTE has placed an initial order with Philly Shipyard for the first two vessels, with delivery to take place in the spring and winter of 2023.
“When the news hit, my phone started ringing nonstop,” said James Hall, president of Local 19. “We’re like a family. We all get together and help one another, so everyone’s very happy about this. We get our union brothers and sisters back to work, and we’ll have a lot more work.”
Prior to the new order, Philly Shipyard was, by all accounts, nearing the brink of extinction. Work was scarce. Boilermakers, along with representatives from the Philly Metal Trades, including Philadelphia Metal Trades President Louis Agre and others, diligently lobbied elected officials to bring the work to Philly Shipyard.
“It was a process to lay out what the work would mean for Pennsylvania workers—and what was at stake if it didn’t come through,” said International Rep David Gaillard. “It was a long time coming, and it’s heartening to see all the hard work finally coming to fruition.”
Hall, Gaillard and other Boilermakers were among the Pennsylvania industry representatives who travelled multiple times to Washington, D.C., to meet with the likes of Senators Bob Casey, Christine Tartaglione, Pat Toomey, and Charles Schumer; Representatives Dwight Evans, Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, and John Garamendi; and Dr. Peter Navarro, Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.
“The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department and its affiliated international unions had one objective and that was to open the shipyard and put 1,200 workers back to work,” said AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department President James Hart. “Had we not been successful, the United States would have lost another major shipyard that would have further weakened our national security, not to mention good middle-class jobs, at a time when America needs to get back to work.”
Hall said plans currently call for work to begin on the new vessels in the fall. In preparation, Local 13 (also Philadelphia) has welcomed L-19 members to its training center to practice their skills.
“Local 13 has been amazing,” said Hall. “They took my call without hesitation and opened their facility to us so our guys can get ready.
“This contract gives everyone hope. Boilermakers will be coming back, with decent pay, doing something they love—and that’s shipbuilding.”