RohanTrevon Brown of Local 714: Millennial on a Mission

Ask RohanTrevon Brown of AFSCME Local 714 if millennials are the future of our AFSCME union, and he’ll answer with a resounding “Yes.”

“The generation before us was taught to follow whatever you were told,” the 29-year-old Brown said. “I’ve grown up in an era where you verify, check and ask questions. Having a union provides me the means to do that.”

Brown, 29, is an eligibility services specialist in the New Haven office of the Department of Social Services. He serves as a union steward and sits on the Executive Board of Local 714, which represents 1,100 state employees in our P-2 Social and Human Services Bargaining Unit.

Brown sees the union as a path to dignity and security for workers of all ages, but especially for millennial workers – those born between 1981 and 1996 – seeking a stronger collective voice in an economy that’s leaving many younger workers in the dust.

“We have grown up with a different set of values,” he said. “The union allows us to act on those values in a safe space.”

A native of Shelton who now resides in Ansonia, Brown is a true believer in public service. He has spent 7 years at DSS, helping Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens access vital benefits, from food assistance to health care to protective services for the elderly.

“I grew up in foster care and I’ve always had a sense of wanting to give back,” he reflected. “The system has given help to me. I wanted to give back.”

Earlier this summer, Brown’s desire to spread the gospel of union representation took him to Nevada, where he spent two weeks as a Volunteer Member Organizer (VMO) for AFSCME. 

He was part of a massive statewide mobilization to get state employees to join AFSCME after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law a bill expanding collective bargaining rights to more than 20,000 Nevada state employees.

Brown related many of his own personal experiences in talking to Nevada workers. “The union put me in a position to pay off student loans, to have a pension and health care, to have safe working conditions, to have a voice on the job,” he said.

The Nevada trip changed Brown’s perceptions about the importance of getting members more. involved, instead of relying on the union steward as the problem-solver.

“I realized that everybody is the union,” he observed. “We are only as strong as our weakest link.”

Brown is working hard to lend his voice to local politics, too. As a candidate for the Ansonia Board of Alderman, he understands how elected officials make decisions that impact the quality of our lives in local communities.

“I want to fight for people who don’t have a voice,” Brown said of his desire to run for election Nov. 5.

RohanTrevon Brown, left, with Attorney General William Tong at the 2019 Connecticut AFL-CIO Convention.

Brown’s activism reflects a positive trend. Data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows workers under 35 represented 76% of growth in union membership from 2016-17, a period that saw 198,000 millennials join unions.

A report published by the Pew Research Center found that 68% of adults age 18 to 29 hold a favorable view of unions, while only 46% hold a favorable view of corporations.

“Millennials know the value of the union,” Brown said. “The union needs to come to millennials [and] reach them in a way that gets them to buy in. If we reconsider our approach, we can get a lot more people involved.”