SYOSSET — Anyone who knows CSEA Oyster Bay Local President Jarvis “Tim” Brown is familiar with his tireless dedication to growing CSEA’s strength and his absolute commitment to unionism.
These qualities lent themselves well to Brown’s pivotal role in helping organize the SCO Family of Services Local, an effort that brought 124 new members into the CSEA family.
That’s why CSEA presented Brown with the Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing at our 109th Annual Delegates Meeting.
Brown, who was also recently elected as the Long Island Region 2nd Vice President, began his CSEA activist career 14 years ago as a shop steward because he wanted to be a part of the conversation during the bargaining process so that he would have a stronger voice in contract talks. “I was in sanitation and it was one of the more difficult departments in the town,” said Brown. “I came in early so I could hear the concerns of the members on my route. I was always able to negotiate good terms and conditions for sanitation employees.”
In 2008, Brown became the assistant to the CSEA Oyster Bay Local president.
“I’ve always liked being able to talk with our members and educate them on what’s happening in our union, whether it’s positive or negative,” said Brown. “Having people be behind you, no matter the situation, is probably my favorite thing.”
Always one to encourage the development of newer members, Brown played an important part in developing our union’s Next Wave initiative.
Next Wave is a community of members dedicated to empowering, activating and developing leadership skills among the future generation of union leaders.
“Guadalupe Johnson [Oyster Bay Local 1st Vice President] introduced me to it,” said Johnson. “Once she explained the importance of it, I jumped in full steam ahead.”
Brown currently serves as co-chair of the Long Island Region Next Wave Committee.
Mirroring the membership
Making sure CSEA’s activists reflect the demographics of our membership is also important to Brown.
“When I first took over as 2013, we had a mostly male executive board,” said Brown. “At the time, I had a number of female members who I didn’t feel were getting the level of representation that they deserved because there weren’t enough activists who could relate to them.”
“As a man, there are certain things that I just can’t understand. I knew we needed women on the local board,” said Brown. “This way, when certain issues arise, we can divide our time and our efforts accordingly.”
Brown took this same mentality when selecting shop stewards.
“Shop stewards are CSEA’s first line of attack,” said Brown. “You have to put the right people in place to get the best results.”
Brown is a staunch believer that seasoned and new members contribute equally to the success of this union movement; newer members bring energy and new ideas while seasoned members bring institutional knowledge. Both are needed when deciding how to address our members’ needs.
Looking to the future
When Brown recognizes leadership qualities in a member, he tries to groom that person with the specific purpose of preparing them for a larger role as an activist.
“You cannot put someone in a union office who is going to negotiate terms and conditions of a contract if they have no education on how this union, or your municipality, runs,” said Brown. “People have to be trained so they will be beneficial to this union movement.”
Brown is proud to say that he can count on every activist in the Oyster Bay Local. Whenever he needs their support, they are there, which is primarily due to the high level of mutual respect.
“Our local activists are my second family,” said Brown. “I probably have one of the best groups out there. I can’t do any of this without them.”
Engagement and Transparency
Getting out of the office and speaking to members supports Brown’s desire to offer the highest level of transparency to local members.
“Members don’t want to receive a letter. They want to see you,” said Brown. “Relationship building helps to build trust.”
Maintaining credibility is also a very important part of Brown’s leadership style.
“You never lie and you never sell out to management,” said Brown. “A lot of people don’t understand that managers don’t just give without expecting something in return and once you take from them, they own you.”
“At that point, you have lost your ability to successfully negotiate because you owe them,” said Brown. “I’m never going to allow our members to be hurt because I was doing something that is solely for my benefit.”
In fact, in 2017, Brown brought a copy of his paystub to membership meetings so members would know his salary. Brown wanted members to see what he was earning, after working for the Town of Oyster Bay for 20 years. He wanted them to be assured that he could not be bought by management.
Brown’s union credo is “You have to communicate to educate,” which is a stance that he uses to motivate both members and activists.
“It’s very important to me for our members to understand the structure of CSEA,” said Brown. “If you’re not educating people, what are you really doing to propel this union? We have to work together as a union group in order to make things better for our future. People have to stop sitting back and asking, ‘what are you doing for me?’ and start playing an active role in determining their future.”
— Wendi Bowie
Above, Town of Oyster Bay Local activist Frank Caliguri, left, and Town of Oyster Bay Local President Jarvis “Tim” Brown, right, drop off literature at a member’s home during a CSEA member engagement visit last year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.