Graduates of the fall 1199SEIU Occupational Safety and Health Class praised the program and its coordinator, Jean Turner-Kelly, at the November 18 graduation ceremony at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters.



The class was the last for Turner-Kelly, who is scheduled to retire at the end of the year after decades as a political organizer and educator at 1199SEIU.



“We pledge to carry on the work of Miss Turner-Kelly,” declared program graduate Justice Nortey, a medical assistant at the Manhattan Physician’s Group, during the graduation ceremony. “Jean gave us every help we needed from the beginning of the classes to the end. We started as a small group and grew into a family and team of advocates for our co-workers and workplace.”



Nortey explained that the classes did more than teach him and the other students about safety at the workplace. “Most workers are afraid of confronting management,” he said. “But we’ve learned that nobody can stop us if we are united.” He described a victory by members of his hospital’s labor-management committee against a supervisor.



“I learned so much from the classes,” said Audia Williams, a home health aide at People Care in Manhattan. “I knew very little about blood-borne diseases before and the importance of carefully reading labels,” she said.



Williams added that she will be meeting with her 1199SEIU organizer and other homecare delegates to work out ways of extending safety and health lessons to others in the homecare industry.



Other students talked about the wide-range of topics covered in the classes. They include among others performing various physical tasks such as lifting and moving, infection prevention, workplace violence, labelling and workers compensation.



Williams, Nortey and others said they were going to sign up for advanced classes. “Let’s go forward boldly,” Nortey declared. “When we are at a Union event or demonstration, we should carry placards calling for health and safety.”



Graduates of the class in addition to Nortey and Williams are Gladys Aggor, Luz Ochoa Brito, Linda Branch, Francisca Jean Jacques, Nirmalla D. Jhoda, Melba Lucia Melo, Rose A. Mime Plaisimond, Prudence Robinson, Lillian Rodriguez and Anthony Whetstone.



For information, contact Jean Turner-Kelly at 212.603.1170 or jean.turner-kelly@1199.org