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OCSEA Union Education Trust Trustee Gerard (Rocky) Jolly leads by example. He takes classes using UET education funds regularly and encourages others to use the program as well. “I also take people along with me to take classes. Sometimes I have to get creative, just to encourage them,” he said.
“UET gives you a better advantage to step up your game: Complete your education or take a class. It’s open to all members to make sure they keep advancing,” Jolly said.
Jolly began his state employment working as a laborer before moving up progressively through other jobs. Now he is a Senior Financial Analyst with the Ohio State School for the Blind. Continuing his education has given him employment security to stay with a job he loves.
In addition to serving on the UET Board of Trustees, Jolly is on the OCSEA State Board of Directors and President of OCSEA District 6. He is also Chair of the OCSEA Government Affairs Committee, serves on the union Finance Committee and has been on the bargaining team several times. He is Co-Chair of the Combined Charitable Campaign (CCC), a joint campaign between the state and union that focuses on raising contributions for more than 1,100 charities.
Of course, Jolly says state service has changed a lot, including the security of public employment which brought him to the job. “Now there are a lot of layoffs and jobs lost through attrition,” Jolly said. “That makes it difficult. One person is doing what five used to do. That makes it stressful. Job security is not a sure thing anymore.”
But Jolly says he is thankful for the union contract “that gives us the best way to protect our jobs,” he said. One of the main highlights of that contract is UET, he constantly reminds members.
“UET was negotiated to give us employment security,” Jolly said. “UET gives us the ability to further our careers and allows state bargaining unit employees to pursue lifelong learning,” he said. This is important for state employees, says Jolly, to adapt and adjust to changes in their agency.
He also points out that training allows members like him to find better ways of doing their jobs. “UET allows you to take those classes to stay on top of whatever your field is,” he said, adding that there are many seminars that he and others at the Ohio School for the Blind have taken using UET funds.
“The program just makes it a lot easier for you to do what you want to do,” he said. As long as the class applies to a job within the State of Ohio and meets basic professional and accreditation criteria, it qualifies. “So, if you need to make a career change, UET gives you that ability,” he said.
Jolly said his role as a UET Trustee and OCSEA leader is getting members what they need to succeed and encouraging them to use what the union has negotiated for them. And the very best thing about UET? In addition to the free education, it’s the staff, Jolly said.
“The staff take the time to talk to people,” he said. “They stay on top of the situation. They really provide that support. It’s the staff, board of trustees, and OCSEA all working together so people understand that education is at their fingertips.”
Jolly first got involved in the union when his staff representative, Marva McCall, encouraged him. “She kind of hooked me when I was asking her some questions,” Jolly said. “That was in 1997, and I’ve been active ever since.”
Now he encourages younger union leaders to become active. “I believe that everything should be passed on,” Jolly said. “If we don’t do that, the strength of the union will go away. We all have to remember back when we started, and someone had to teach us the role. Now it’s our turn,” he said.