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Nachael Church, recently appointed to the UET Board of Trustees, had been a Therapeutic Program Worker at Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital (NOPH) for two years when the local OCSEA chapter president retired in 2011.
“I didn’t know about anything,” Church, who is now a Maintenance Repair Worker 2 at NOPH, said. “We were winging it. We started asking questions.”
Church did what she has done many times in her life: She educated herself. She went to trainings and learned about her union and her contract.
“Any time I get a chance to learn something to help our members, that’s what I do,” Church said.
“I believe education is really important,” she said. “Knowledge is power. The more you know, the stronger you become. Just like the contract book – if you don’t know it, management can get away with so much.”
“The more I know, the more I can help someone,” she added.
Prior to working at NOPH, Church had been an assembly line worker at a car manufacturer, a retail employee, and a direct care worker at a nursing facility. Because her job at Chrysler was inconsistent with layoffs and call backs, she went back to school for nursing and was hired at NOPH.
So Church was used to stepping up to make things better. With the chapter needing leaders, a co-worker went to the assembly meeting and Church began going to other meetings and activities. She took the stewards training.
“Any training I can go to, I will try to go to,” Church said. “And I started getting more involved. That was 11 years ago.”
Church was the chapter secretary for several terms and also served as treasurer for a time. She began going to the MH/MRDD Assembly meetings and joined the executive board. Several years ago, she was elected to OCSEA’s state Board of Directors.
And she continued with training: attending the Stewards’ Academy as well as additional classes for her new role on the Judicial and Internal Affairs Committee (JIAC). Today Church is the president of her local chapter. She recently served as chair of the state board’s PR and Membership Committee.
Her role serving fellow bargaining unit employees is important to Church.
“I do this so there is a level playing field,” Church said. “I’m going to fight for that person: They deserve their job and to be treated fairly. I don’t like people to be mistreated.”
Just as she looks out for her co-workers, Church cares about the patients at the facility.
“I work on an all-men forensic unit,” Church said. “A lot of times I’m the mom or the crazy sister.”
“It’s interesting — never boring. You have to do a lot of defusing a lot of arguments,” she said. “You have to be firm and consistent with them. Once they understand that, everything flows.”
Having good co-workers is important too, and Church said she works with a lot of “awesome people” on her unit.
“The people you work with can make or break a unit,” she said. “We’re completely on the same page. We have rules and that keeps the unit in order. It gives the patients expectations. They know what they have to do. It keeps our unit together.”
Church calls herself the “bossy big sister” in relation to her co-workers. She encourages them to take any classes or trainings available to them.
“I always encourage my chapter executive board: They have to take a stewards class, not to be a steward, but to know the contract and how to look at it and decipher something,” she said.
“A lot of members want someone to tell them about the contract,” she added. “I say ‘Read the book. Go through it. What are your rights?’”
“Sometimes even I don’t understand so I’m like ‘Hold on,’” she added. “I’m going to try to look it up and understand it for myself first.”
Church is excited about education and learning, whether the subject is the OCSEA contract, job skills, or personal skills.
“Learning never ends. There’s always something you need to learn or need to do,” she said. “It’s about expanding. Even if you have the same job for 10 years: life changes, people change, the medical field changes. You need to learn how to do the job differently and how to deal with different people.”
This philosophy shows why Church is an ideal person to serve on the Union Education Trust’s Board of Trustees. In addition to valuing life-long learning, Church praises UET for the opportunities it offers bargaining unit employees. Church used UET to take criminal justice classes and business management with a labor focus. Her daughter, also an OCSEA member, is using UET to study to become a licensed practical nurse.
“UET is wonderful,” Church said. “Without UET, a lot of people would be struggling to go to school. A lot of people really depend on that money. It’s really a wonderful program.”
UET provides training that not only helps you grow in your professional life but also in your personal life.
“If you fail to continue to learn, you stay stuck in a mindset,” she said. “I have to reprogram myself to do things better: We’re supposed to be better people; if you don’t expand yourself with learning, how will you be a better person?”
Helping others is an integral part of being a leader with OCSEA. Church recognizes that she’s been on the receiving end of that before — and is called to contribute as well.
“Our jobs and our lives are very stressful right now. When you know someone has your back like OCSEA, your unit team, it makes a heck of a difference,” Church said. “I have been fortunate to have people who have had my back.”
“It means a lot when you’re backed up in a corner and you can call someone,” she said. “It means a lot.”
Just as she values education and lifelong learning, Church knows it is important to teach others.
“Some people can’t fight for themselves – some people can’t or don’t know how. But I’ve showed them how to,” she said. “Our job as a union is not just to fight for people but to teach them how to fight too.”