Kaiser, Lutcher and Gramercy did good

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 1999

L’Observateur / July 7, 1999

The Kaiser Aluminum explosion raised immediate speculation about the future of the facility, already troubled by a 9-month old labor dispute which raised community support for the union and against the facility.

Now, with the explosion which rocked the area, feelings continue to be strong regarding Kaiser.

Nevertheless, few want the facility, which provides tax revenue for the parish and school system and not long ago provided land for a new parish visitor information center, to leave the area.

Meanwhile, the union local has scored more points in the community by its immediate offer of support and assistance for the community itself and also Kaiser.

This comes at a time when most people would think the Kaiser strikers would be more in assistance than others, since the future of their jobs remains in limbo and the likelihood the labor dispute will continue for many months remains possible.

Emergency response from the police and municipal administrations of Gramercy and Lutcher, and also the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office, wasprompt, responsive to the people’s concerns and thoroughly professional.

It is difficult to imagine the long-range impact to the Gramercy-Lutcher area, not only economically but also emotiionally. Following the far moreserious Shell explosion in Norco in 1988, community fears took years to calm down. However, as in this case, the industry immediately worked tohelp their neighbors and calm fears that the industry would cut their losses and depart forever.

The partnership between major industry and the communities they help sustain is a close one, some even spanning generations. When Godchaux-Henderson Sugar Refinery closed down in Reserve, the emotional scars ran deep and, for many, may never heal.

However, Gramercy and Lutcher are fortunate in many ways. As of thiswriting, there were no fatalies, though some serious injuries were incurred. There was some damage but nothing severe as was endured inNorco. There were no reports of looting of damaged businesses, accordingto local police. With the strike going on, fewer local residents were onsite than what normally would have been. Security and safety wereuppermost in the minds of local law enforcement, who responded professionally and swiftly to safeguard residents and property. All in all,the Kaiser incident was a textbook example of how proper response should work.

Now comes the rebuilding effort, and a building of hopes that not only the labor dispute comes to an end but also a consigning of this incident to history.

St. James Parish, and the towns of Lutcher and Gramercy, have much to bethankful for and proud of.

It could have been much worse.


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