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Rep. Cedric Richmond

Coming from a district and a family that has survived Hurricane Katrina, hard times and poverty, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) promised to do everything he can to ensure that the maritime industry and labor movement get the respect and recognition they deserve.

Speaking at the MTD’s executive board meeting in Orlando, Richmond highlighted the fight that he and others are waging to keep the Avondale shipyard open, which is located in his district.

Noting that the facility generates 11,000 jobs—5,000 directly, another 6,000 indirectly—he said that he hit the ground running in Congress on this one issue. He knew from the moment he was sworn in last year that there was nothing more important to his district than keeping Avondale open.

The maritime industry and working people have come a long way since the company first announced that it was planning to close the shipyard, he said. But more needs to be done.

Working with determined allies like U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), he was able to secure $1.5 million for an impact study that showed some startling items.

For one thing, the company that operates the yard stood to make $310 million just to shut down Avondale. Landrieu and he were able to get the military and government to agree to use the money to keep the facility open. He called this the first step in the right direction. Since then, the company has been meeting regularly with him and others.

Organized labor as a whole has supported its brothers and sisters in the maritime industry by coming out and showing support for the workers at Avondale. That’s vital, he said, as everything starts with standing up and being counted.

We have to do more of this, he added, especially since people are saying untrue things about the labor movement. And the sad thing, he noted, is that if you repeat a lie often enough, people begin to believe it.

It’s time for all of us to repeat the truth over and over and over again, he told the executive board.

Since becoming a member of Congress, he has been frustrated by a number of things, nothing more important than people failing to get the obvious. They talk about the superhighways of the future without ever mentioning that it has been maritime highways that have made this country great.

The Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, using the monies in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for their intended purposes – “I support them all,” he declared.

These programs help make America exceptional, just like the “blood, sweat and tears” of the working people who have made “this a more perfect union.”

He left the delegates with an image of working people “marching, coming together, fighting for people.”

The labor movement, he said, has allowed “people to come together to fight for things bigger than themselves.”