Larry Brown was born in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan in 1948 and raised on a farm near there. He became an important figure in the Saskatchewan labour movement and later in the national labour movement. Brown began his social activism at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was active in the Student's Union and became president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Students. While articling with a Saskatchewan law firm, Brown was hired by the Allan Blakeney NDP government as executive secretary to the Task Force on Workers' Compensation, and later as executive assistant to the Deputy Minister of Labour. He was instrumental in drafting precedent-setting occupational health and safety legislation, which included the right of workers to refuse dangerous work.
In 1974, Brown was hired as executive secretary of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, where he served until 1979 and provided important leadership in protests against wage controls. He also was labour's representative on task forces on workers' compensation and provincial rent controls. In 1979 he became the chief executive officer of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union. Brown became one of the most recognizable figures in Saskatchewan's labour movement, particularly during one of Saskatchewan's largest public service strikes in 1979.
In 1986, Brown was elected as secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees, based in Ottawa. He continues to be an outspoken and progressive voice for workers across the country, speaking out in favour of the value of public services and challenging the merits of free trade agreements and globalization. Brown is also President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada's leading progressive research/ policy organization.