BITU stalwart, lifelong JLP member laid to rest in NY
NEW YORK, USA — Former Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) conciliation officer and lifelong member of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Loriel Delores McKenzie, who died here recently, was laid to rest last week.
The 94-year-old Montego Bay, St James, native was an only child born to Melita Facey and Kenneth Murray. She exhibited an early passion for politics and activism, which led to a long career in championing workers’ causes and impelled her to become an early member of the nascent political movement in pre-Independent Jamaica.
Armed with a certificate in trade union studies from The University of the West Indies (The UWI), McKenzie joined the BITU in the 1950s after a short-lived career in cosmetology. She worked alongside the then BITU Island Supervisor Hugh Lawson Shearer, who would later become Jamaica’s third prime minister.
In her role as a conciliation officer, she worked closely with companies and organisations to improve the wages and working conditions of workers across Jamaica, the eulogy which was read at her funeral service noted.
She was also remembered as one who would “organise labour actions such as strikes and protests when the BITU was unable to secure wage agreement through negotiations with companies or other organisations”.
As a member of the JLP, McKenzie campaigned tirelessly to ensure the election of the party’s representatives at the local level in St James, and worked as well on the campaigns of candidates for Members of Parliament.
She was part of the delegations which met the late British Queen Elizabeth on one of her royal visits to Jamaica, as well as that which met the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie on his historic visit to Jamaica in 1966.
In the United States, to which she migrated in 1972, McKenzie continued her activism and work in the trade union movement as a liaison between workers at Amsterdam House Nursing Facility in Manhattan, where she worked, and 1199SEIU, the largest union representing health -are workers in New York.
As a member of the Jamaican Diaspora here McKenzie, a mother of six who was affectionately known as Cherry Murray, was a go-to person on social issues and one who helped scores of her fellow Jamaicans secure jobs and navigate and handle the many challenges encountered by new arrivals in New York.
This past February she was recognised for her years of service to the BITU, during a ceremony in New York at which she was presented with a plaque befitting a stalwart.