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There were several directions in which state employee, union activist and OCSEA Union Education Trust Trustee, Jerry Brown’s career could have gone. After Brown graduated from high school, he began working in a factory, where he held his first union role as a chief steward when he was just 20 years old. Over the next seven years, he also worked for Piedmont Airlines part time and managed a health club full time, which he really enjoyed.
It was while he was working at the health club that one of his clients told him about career opportunities with the State of Ohio. Brown applied for a job as a corrections officer and was hired in February 1987. “It seems like it’s working out,” Brown joked about his 32-year career with the State.
Brown has worked his entire state career at Dayton Correctional Institution, formerly a medium-security men’s prison but now a maximum-security women’s prison. “My Career has been very gratifying, in knowing that I provide a necessary service to my community,” said Brown.
In addition to serving as a UET Trustee, he is also an OCSEA State Board member, OCSEA District 2 President, Dayton Correctional Chapter 5725 President and a member of the Corrections Statewide Health & Safety Committee. He also serves on other State Board committees, including Education, Finance and Professional Advisory.
Brown described his role on the UET Board of Trustees as having fiscal responsibility for the union-negotiated and union-administered benefit for the state bargaining unit members. “We’re there to assist our membership in furthering their education so that they can prepare for tomorrows jobs and plan for career advancement,” said Brown.
Brown says one of his biggest jobs as a UET Trustee is promoting the education program to his co-workers and chapter and district members, which includes over 2,000 members. He makes sure that information and brochures are available, whether in the roll-call room or at chapter meetings. “A lot of my members in my chapter know my leadership role in the program and come to me with questions about their education benefits,” he said. “Lifelong learning is essential to today’s workplace as well as just being a member of society”, says Brown. “Things change and we have to be adaptable to all this change,” he said. “Education is the absolute best way we can adapt to the change going on in the world.
In addition to promoting UET, part of Brown’s role as a leader is to share the value of the labor movement and grow other leaders in the union, he said. He reminds people of how unions have improved safety in the workplace and negotiated for improved benefits, including education benefits like UET, in addition to better salaries. “Unions raise the bar for everybody,” he said. “I like to share that message so people have a better understanding of what unions do for them on a daily basis.” He constantly reiterates the importance of a strong OCSEA with committed leaders. “We train and promote our leaders so they can be knowledgeable about what is happening in our world and how it’s affecting them on the job,” Brown said.
The role as UET trustee and union leader has been a good fit for Brown. “I have always enjoyed being an advocate for my members and their concerns,” he said. In fact, he has been told he was fit for another career choice: “I was once told that I should have been a lawyer!”