Stewards Graduate from Recertification Class

June 2010

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Stewards Graduate from Recertification Class  With focus and enthusiasm, six SIU members in early May finished steward recertification at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Md.

Recertification is considered the top Paul Hall Center curriculum available to members of the steward department. Graduating from the most recent course offering were Seafarers Edward C. Banks, Leonard Benton, Jack Allen Hart Jr., Daniel Herrera, Army Joe Leake and Kimberly Strate.

Stewards brush up on their fire fighting skills.The three-week class includes hands-on training, classroom instruction and meetings with representatives from different departments of the SIU and the Seafarers Plans. Among the components are ServSafe, which focuses on safe and sanitary galley operations; first aid and CPR; galley fire fighting; leadership and management skills; computer training; nutrition; and communications.

The stewards received their graduation certificates May 3 during the membership meeting in Piney Point. Following a longstanding tradition, each of them addressed the other upgraders and officials in attendance. Several offered practical encouragement to the unlicensed apprentices in the audience.

Banks was first to the microphone. A Seafarer since 1990, he said some of the course’s most useful lessons involved training in conflict resolution and preventing sexual harassment. He also thanked union and school officials and staff members for their hard

“The union has been an important part of my life,” stated Banks, who sails from the port of Norfolk, Va. “It has helped me to grow professionally, expand my knowledge and see different countries. I’ve been able to upgrade my skills for use now and in the future.”

Speaking to the apprentices, Banks urged them to “stay focused, study hard and give 110 percent. Trust me, it pays off.”

Herrera, whose home port is San Juan, P.R., signed on with the SIU in 2001 and has upgraded several times since then. He described the recertification class as “a very good experience. The instructors and the staff were terrific. It also opened my view of the union and what it’s all about…. I encourage everybody to continue to upgrade.”

Benton, who sails from the port of Houston, had been a member of the old National Maritime Union (NMU) when it merged into the SIU in 2001. He said the recertification course “was well worth waiting for. It has given me a wide range of knowledge in food service and I will be able to provide better supervision plus maintain a high level of sanitation.”

A mariner since 1967, Benton urged his fellow members to “always remember, it’s not what’s on the (shipping) paper that makes us who we are; it’s who we are that makes the paper. The choices you make today will navigate your course for tomorrow.”

Piney Point is a familiar setting to Hart, who graduated from the trainee program in 1981 and now sails from the port of Jacksonville, Fla. He said the computer training, ServSafe and conflict resolution sessions were highlights of the recertification class.

“This is the best school for seamen in the world,” Hart added. “I have used this school to better my pay and better my life. It has helped me improve my skills…. For those coming into the union now, I would recommend using this school to upgrade their skills as much as they can and as soon as they receive the (sea) time.

“I also would like to say thanks to everyone who helped me along my way to become a recertified steward, especially (retired Recertified Steward) James Willey for taking me under his wing.”

Strate joined the SIU in Jacksonville in 2001. She commended the union for “always being supportive” and also urged fellow members to participate in SPAD, the SIU’s voluntary political action fund.

“Because of our donations to SPAD, we have the best team going to bat for us every day in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “They face a maze of regulations and they need our support.”

Strate, whose home port is Baltimore, said that the recertification course as a whole will help her when interacting with fellow crew members and company representatives. A frequent upgrader, she added, “It’s always a pleasure to come here. The hotel looks wonderful, as does the entire campus. Every single employee has a great attitude. I have to commend the hotel staff for continuing to provide first-class accommodations. Over the years, including this visit, things just keep getting better.”

Turning to the apprentices, Strate stated, “I have a job I love and have a huge extended family. Don’t forget to work hard and strive for the professionalism that sets us apart.”

Leake had the final word at the podium. He began by pointing out he’s been sailing for 47 years, including 17 with the SIU and 30 with the Navy. He also thanked the union’s officials for their hard work, and encouraged fellow Seafarers to contribute to SPAD.

“The SIU has been very important in my life,” said Leake, who sails from the port of Norfolk. “I wanted to continue sailing and the SIU provided me that opportunity. I’ve traveled the globe many times, more than a halfdozen times around the world.”

Concerning the recertification class, Leake said, “I am very appreciative of the entire educational experience that I received. I am particularly pleased that I had an opportunity to learn more about proper food-service procedures and also the fact that I became more educated regarding SIU contracts. The knowledge that I received will allow me to be a more effective steward.”

Finally, he told the apprentices, “The training you receive here will give you a strong foundation for a successful career. Study hard, study smart, don’t get cocky, and stay focused. Your learning will never end.”

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