U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge

Union leaders continued the work of ensuring the 2023 SMART Leadership Conference theme – “This Is Our Time” – is more than just a catchphrase as the conference rolled into its second day in Washington, D.C.

Throughout the morning’s joint session, attendees were presented with evidence that the union has strengthened both financially and in membership, and with a vast number of opportunities ahead to ensure the prosperity of our membership and our two nations.

New VP sworn in to the GEC

General President Michael Coleman began the joint session by recognizing the career of SMART Sixth General Vice President and Northwest Regional Council President Tim Carter, who retired after the conclusion of the conference’s first day.

Carter oversaw extraordinary growth and progress in the Northwest, from welcoming the formation of women’s committees to new organizing across the region.

Brother Carter is replaced on the General Executive Council by Ray Reasons, president and business manager of SM Local 36 (St. Louis, Mo.), who becomes SMART’s 11th General Vice President.

Local 36 has long been on the forefront of growth and innovation, and members there played an important role beating back a recent attempt by state politicians to institute so-called “right to work.”

“Under his leadership, Local 36 has continued its tradition of success, and today he joins us on the dais,” Coleman said. “Congratulations, Ray – I look forward to working with you in the coming years.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance details its good work

One benefit free to all members of our union — sheet metal and TD alike — is membership in the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA).

Alliance Executive Director and CEO Walt Ingram joined the conference to discuss USA’s ongoing relationship with SMART — the fourth-largest union affiliate of his group.

Ingram described the USA’s events, which include dinners, 25 clay shoots around the nation and environmental restoration projects designed not only to provide an opportunity for union camaraderie, but also as a way to bring families and communities alike together.

USA’s Walt Ingram

“We’re a great tool to connect the local to the membership and then the membership to the community,” Ingram said, noting that SMART sponsors a pair of shoots in Port Republic, N.J., and Brighton, Colo. “Our mission is to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. We do that every day in a variety of different ways. We want to help you recruit apprentices for your program and also join the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.”

AFL-CIO president speaks

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, who has worked closely with SMART on issues ranging from green energy jobs to pension security, was unable to join the conference in person. She sent remarks via video, in which she discussed the importance of the conference theme: This is our time.

“What a perfect way to capture the moment we are in and the urgency that we should feel in taking advantage of it,” she said. “This is our time. This labor momentum that you hear people talking about — you’re living it every day.”

Shuler reminded attendees that 71 percent of Americans approve of unions — the highest level since 1965.

“We are finally seeing huge gains in the battles we have been fighting for years. Now the question is, how do we build on these wins and create even more power for workers?” she asked.

The organizing and solidarity displayed by SMART as TD members’ efforts secured paid sick leave and two-person crew victories in Ohio, Minnesota and Kansas will serve as examples to follow in the future, as workers fight to have a say and profiteers try to use tech, automation and AI to eliminate people’s jobs.

“Unions are going to rebuild this country – SMART members are going to rebuild this country!” she concluded. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather fight alongside than the activists and leaders in this room.”

Supporting Maryland Special Olympics

Representatives of the Special Olympics of Maryland (SOMD), the designated charity of the Leadership Conference, talked about the importance of its work. Providing year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, SOMD gives participants the opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and share their gifts, skills, and friendship with others. 

“It is because of the dedication, compassion and love of the people from the Special Olympics community, and organizations like yours, that awareness and understanding is helping people to see that the intellectually disabled community is no different than those who are not,” said global Special Olympics representative and coach Tim Gowen. “We are capable, hard-working and have dreams, just like anyone else.”

Gowen has been part of the Special Olympics for 50 years, growing up in Silver Springs, Md., and through the program, eventually found supportive schools and communities.

“It changed my life and gave me the tools to succeed. … Having the opportunity to play and compete in sports is wonderful, but that’s not all we experience.,” Gowen said. “It’s the friendships I have made over the years, the companies and the communities that support us.

“I would like to thank you, the members of SMART,” he concluded. “It is amazing to play sports and win medals, but that wouldn’t happen without the generosity of people like you.”

Legislative leaders report

SMART Director of Governmental Affairs Steve Dodd and TD National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes took the stage to deliver a report on legislative and government affairs.

“Never in my life would I have ever thought that we would have the opportunity to be on offense the way we are right now,” Dodd said, noting that SMART has worked with federal agencies to implement a pro-labor regulatory agenda and provide funding for projects that will employ unionized workers.

In short, the Biden administration has delivered for SMART members, he said, and local unions have a great environment to take advantage of and spread the message of the progress labor has made.

“This administration’s been great for us, as you could see from the administrator of FRA being here yesterday,” Hynes said.

His report detailed the Transportation Division’s agenda, with two-person crews, Class 1 certification programs, train length and blocked crossings, bus and transit operator assaults, yardmaster hours of service, sick leave and more on the list.

Progress has been made on many of these areas at the state level, including rail safety, train length and blocked crossing legislation, he said.

SMART-TD has leveraged the extensive media attention given to railroads from the national contract negotiations and the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster to make real gains across the country, meeting with lawmakers and introducing legislation that protects members.

Dodd (left) and Hynes

“We’ve fielded more media than I have ever seen in my entire career,” Hynes said. “Jared [Cassity, SMART-TD Alternate Legislative Director], Jeremy [Ferguson, SMART TD President] for a period there, we were doing several interviews every day with affiliates all over the country — major networks, newspapers, the major news publications. What it did is put us in the mind of the general public, and members of Congress were very interested to talk with us.”

Dodd and Hynes both detailed SMART’s 2023-24 get-out-the-vote strategy. In 2023, three governor’s races in particular are of interest to our union. Turning their eyes to 2024, control of the U.S. House, Senate and presidency will be determined.

They both said that improving voter turnout and making sure members know which elected officials and policies truly support us – and getting members out to vote – are going to be key goals moving ahead.

Finances, DOE secretary and SASMI presentation

Controller Warren May said that the rough financial period the union weathered due to the pandemic has passed, saying that finances all around the union are moving in a positive direction.

“If any accountant saw this, they would say, ‘Oh my gosh, those are fabulous financials,’” May said.

Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, also delivered her speech via video. Granholm, who has used her position in the Department of Energy to advocate for good, union, clean energy jobs, met recently with both General President Coleman and NEMI Administrator Lisa Davis – affirming the Biden administration’s commitment to working with SMART and organized labor.

“Unions built the middle class, you know this. Unions run best-in-class training programs, for construction workers,” Granholm said. “Unionized employers have an easier time hiring because workers want union jobs, and that’s why our incentives require companies to pay prevailing wage, require them to hire registered apprentices. That’s why we attach strong labor standards to every single federal law.”

Ken Columbo followed with the rundown of SASMI’s programs, noting an explosive growth in the use of an improved travel benefit in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period the year prior – all due to Biden-Harris administration and infrastructure projects coming to fruition in the form of megaprojects.

A maternity benefit also has received a good reception, Columbo said, and also growing is the newly introduced HRC benefit card that participants can use to pay for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

SASMI also has extended COBRA benefits to the spouses of deceased members to 18 months and remains in solid financial health after a decline due to the pandemic.

Secretary Fudge

HUD secretary: SMART needs to lead the way

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge closed out the session with a message encouraging SMART to continue to educate newer generations about the value of the labor movement and to maintain its position as a leader as the nation’s economy continues to transform. 

Secretary Fudge has a long history with GP Coleman from their time in Cleveland — when Coleman was president of Local 33 and Fudge was a civic leader, first as mayor of Cleveland suburb Warrensville Heights, then as a U.S. representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district.  

She described the progress the Biden-Harris administration has made in constructing an economy from the bottom up and from the middle out. 

“As the president often says, ‘The middle class built America, but the unions built the middle class.’ I never thought I would ever get to a point in my life where we would have to explain to people why unions are important,” she said after recounting the benefits that unions have brought to the working class — the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, pension plans and the weekend being among them. 

The Biden-Harris administration’s actions have launched a period of economic growth through its signature infrastructure law, creating 13 million jobs thus far in the United States, with an expected growth rate of 1 million additional jobs per year, she said. 

SMART members will be a huge part of these projects: operating energy-efficient buses and trains and performing energy-efficient retrofits to older houses, HVAC systems and other programs that her department oversees, Fudge added. 

“These projects do not happen without skilled technicians or skilled tradesmen like you,” she said. “Because I know that with you, there is not much that we cannot do. We cannot build this country without you, so work with us.

“Let me tell you what. You have a hammer. You need to use your hammer to hammer a warning about where we’re going in this nation. You need to use your hammer to take the lead in support of American workers. You can hammer out injustice if you just raise your voice,” Fudge said. “We all have the right to the American Dream. I’m saying to you, SMART, hammer it out!” 

Read more about the sheet metal session here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the course of history, leading a pioneering crusade for racial justice and civil rights. Unfortunately, his bold vision for the country and the world is often diluted in favor of a sanitized version of history, and many important characteristics of his activism are swept under the rug – including his labor advocacy.

SMART News highlighted Dr. King’s fight for workers’ rights during its sixth episode, with SMART BE4ALL Committee member Rafael De La Rosa noting that there’s no better time than Black History Month to recognize the shared purpose of the labor movement and the civil rights movement (episode six was released in February).

Watch the SMART News segment on Dr. King’s labor advocacy.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that the struggle for racial justice cannot be separated from the fight for workers’ rights,” De La Rosa explained.

The segment highlighted clips of King speaking to the AFL-CIO convention in 1961, where he clearly illustrated the common cause of labor and civil rights activists.

“[African Americans’] needs are identical with labor’s needs,” King said in his speech. “Decent wages. Fair working conditions. Livable housing. Old age security. Health and welfare measures. Conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

De La Rosa went on to discuss King’s presence at picket lines and other labor actions throughout his life – including in the days leading up to his death. When King was murdered in Memphis on April 4, 1968, he was in the city to support a sanitation workers’ strike. The sanitation workers, who organized with AFSCME despite the city of Memphis refusing to recognize their union, walked off the job after two workers were crushed to death in a garbage compactor in February 1968. Their strike ended soon after Dr. King’s assassination, when the city agreed to recognize the union and provide wage increases.

“This history often goes untold, just like Dr. King’s radical vision is often watered down,” De La Rosa concluded. “During Black History Month and throughout the year, it’s important to study the past so we can achieve justice for all in the future.”

Learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King and the labor movement.

Will Griffin (second from left) with his family and Vice President Kamala Harris

On Tuesday, April 12, SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and others rallied at the SMART SM Local 19 (Philadelphia, Pa.) union hall to publicize an important Department of Labor (DOL) initiative.

On April 8, the DOL Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on workplace heat hazards, launching a targeted effort to protect workers from the threat of heat-related illness which, as a result of climate change, has increased in 18 of the last 19 summers. Workers suffer more than 3,500 injuries and/or illnesses related to heat each year, with low-wage workers and workers of color disproportionately impacted. With the implementation of the NEP — which is effective starting April 8 and will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended — the DOL aims to protect workers in more than 70 industries, including those that employ SMART workers. Learn more at OSHA.gov/heat.

GP Sellers addresses the crowd at the Local 19 union hall in Philadelphia.

Facts on the NEP from OSHA:

The NEP is a nationwide enforcement mechanism for OSHA to proactively inspect workplaces for heat-related hazards in general industry, maritime, construction or agriculture operation alleging hazardous exposures to heat (outdoors and/or indoors).

  • This means that OSHA can now launch heat-related inspections on high-risk worksites before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.

The NEP encourages employers to protect workers from heat hazards by providing employee access to water, rest, shade, adequate training, and implementing acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

  • The NEP contains both enforcement and outreach/ compliance assistance components.

The NEP establishes heat priority days when the heat index is expected to be 80°F or higher. On heat priority days:

  • OSHA will initiate compliance assistance in the targeted high-risk industries.
  • OSHA will also continue to inspect any alleged heat-related fatality/catastrophe, complaint or referral regardless of whether the worksite falls within a targeted industry of this NEP.

OSHA will conduct pre-planned inspections in targeted high-risk industries on any day that the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory for the local area.

OSHA also recognizes that many businesses want to do the right thing by developing heat illness prevention plans to keep their employees safe.

  • On heat priority days, OSHA field staff will engage in proactive outreach and technical/compliance assistance to help keep workers safe on the job.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at SM Local 19.

In addition to the NEP, Vice President Harris, Secretary Walsh and President Shuler reaffirmed the Biden administration’s support for organized labor and working people across the country. Following an introduction by Local 19 third-year apprentice Will Griffin, in which he spoke about his journey in the trade and the benefits he’s experienced since joining SMART, Vice President Harris discussed planned improvements to schools and other local infrastructure using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding — improvements to be completed by members of organized labor, including SMART. “It will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“[The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“President Joe Biden and I are determined to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history,” she added. “Because you see, we are clear and we know, each and every day in ways big and small, unions change lives. Unions negotiate better wages and safer working conditions for millions of workers around our country.

FTA has not yet implemented worker safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WASHINGTON – Today, 20 labor organizations representing transit drivers and other transportation workers urged Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Nuria Fernandez to immediately implement the safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to protect transit workers from assault.

Four months after the passage of the BIL, the FTA has yet to implement these safety provisions. Meanwhile, transit workers continue to face danger on the job.

Assaults against transit workers have long been a concern but dramatically increased during the last three years of the pandemic, as did assaults on other frontline transportation workers like airline and airport workers.

Labor unions representing frontline transit employees have responded to this crisis over the years through legislative and regulatory measures, most recently securing several provisions in the BIL to protect transit workers.

Because of the BIL, the FTA is now statutorily required to collect accurate data on transit workforce assaults, to reform its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) process to include worker voices and incorporate measures to reduce the risk of assault in every transit system, and to update its national safety plan to address the risk of assault and public health concerns.

The unions wrote: “Our members include bus and rail transit operators, station agents, car cleaners, mechanics and other frontline workers, all of whom are at risk of assault and worse each day they arrive at work. President Biden committed to protecting these workers and that promise was enshrined into law as part of the BIL. Before, and particularly during the COVID19 pandemic, these workers have laid their lives on the line every day to ensure Americans have access to safe, reliable transportation, and we must not turn our backs on them another day.”

Signers of the letter include the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) and the nation’s largest transit unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART-TD), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU).

The letter was also signed by the following unions: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), Association of Flight Attendants–CWA (AFA), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes–IBT (BMWED), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (IOMM&P), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).

Read the letter here.

The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, of which the SMART Transportation Division is a proud member, released the following statement on March 1 after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, president and secretary-treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued the below statement in response to President Biden’s first State of the Union (SOTU) address to the nation.

“From the passage of the American Rescue Plan to the biggest investment in infrastructure in our nation’s history, the first year of the Biden Administration was a capstone year of legislative victories for transportation labor unions and working people.

“Chief among these legislative victories is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a once-in-a-generation investment across every sector of our transportation network — and an unprecedented investment in workers. 

“We proudly represent 36 labor unions whose members will be put to work during the implementation of this historic legislation, ushering in a new era of manufacturing, construction, and transportation job creation. We applaud President Biden for putting union job creation and worker empowerment at the center of his governing agenda.

“We welcome the progress of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which recently released a report outlining 70 recommendations to empower workers, including an initiative to increase worker awareness of their federally protected rights to organize and establish a resource center for information on unions and collective bargaining.

“We urge Congress to heed the President’s call to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would help workers collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

“We look forward to continuing to work with President Biden and the Administration to create good union jobs, invest in America’s transportation infrastructure, and expand collective bargaining for every transportation worker in the nation.”

A statement from SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson on the passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
“Brother Trumka was a distinguished, energetic and passionate leader — a true force whose presence will be missed by all who knew and worked with him in advancing the solidarity and selflessness that propels the American labor movement. We share in the sorrow of his passing and mourn with our brothers and sisters in labor. SMART-TD extends our most heartfelt condolences and will continue his legacy of standing up for the working class.“
Trumka was a keynote speaker at the 2019 SMART General Convention. Click below to view a highlight from his address to more than 1200 convention delegates.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Protests in both the United States and Canada have been used to focus upon racial justice in our communities. SMART stands united with those who are committed to peacefully work towards a racially just society that provides the freedom of opportunity to all.
Many of our fellow citizens are hurting. We cannot be silent in the quest to achieve much-needed social change. We equally stand against those who uphold racism, bigotry and violence. Make no mistake, fighting racism is a labor issue. Bigotry and racism have been used to prevent working people from securing a voice in the workplace for the course of our existence. It is used to divide and conquer by pitting workers against each other. This cannot continue and we must focus on real change and for reforms that address issues of racial and economic inequality.
Over the course of this pandemic, there has been a shift toward caring and empathy. Together, we protect each other. We want you to know that you are my sisters and brothers, that you are my community, that you matter to me! We were moved by our brother, Pastor Paul, “The only reason to look down on someone is to give them a hand up.”
Through our strategic plan we continue our enhanced commitment for systematic change for women and people of color within the industries we represent through our actions and dedicated resources across the United States, Canada and our Labor Movement. We will continue this path and focus to bring about real change. We encourage all members, our industry partners and our communities to join in these efforts.
One life lost is one life too many. Our deepest sympathies and heartbreak lie with the family of George Floyd as well as the many others whose lives were tragically cut short before him. We urge all to remember them through a peaceful struggle towards racial equality for all and we condemn those engaging in violence, the destruction of property and the loss of jobs.
Early this week, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO was damaged during clashes in Washington, D.C. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, “We will clean up the glass, sweep away the ashes and keep doing our part to bring a better day out of this hour of darkness and despair.”
“Our work and dedication to the prosperity and freedom for all working families will continue.”


A workers summit for union members from all over Nebraska is scheduled to take place on Monday, May 6 in North Platte, Nebraska.
Jim “Doc” Moore, a retired associate professor of labor history at Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations, will moderate the meetings at 1 and 5 p.m. at the Ramada Inn and Suites, 2102 S. Jeffers St., North Platte, NE 69101.
Among scheduled presenters at the summit, which is open to all union members and their spouses, are Sue Martin, president of the Nebraska AFL-CIO; John Kretzschmar, director of the William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; and SMART TD Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson.
The summit is again being organized by Terry Sigler, a retired legislative representative of SMART TD Local 286 in North Platte who remains active in union matters, especially when it comes to safety. Among topics discussed at the successful inaugural meeting in April 2018 were the state’s two-person crew bills and OSHA funding.
“The purpose of the Workers Summit is to unite all the unions to better inform the membership of the issues that are important for their safety and welfare,” Sigler said.

With Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28) almost upon us, the AFL-CIO today released their annual report on deaths on the job. This year’s focus of the report was workplace violence.
According to the AFL-CIO, “Workplace violence is the third-leading cause of death on the job, resulting in more than 29,000 serious, lost-time injuries for workers each year.”
According to the report, in 2017, 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job as a result of traumatic injuries and each day, an average of 14 workers die due to on-the-job injuries. An estimated, 95,000 people die each year from occupational diseases.
The report also states that nearly 3.5 million workers in the public sector had work-related injuries and illnesses, with an additional 2.8 million injuries reported in the private sector. Due to limitations to the current injury reporting system and widespread under-reporting of injuries in the workplace, the AFL-CIO estimates that the true numbers are two to three times greater than these at about 7.0 million to 10.5 million work-related injuries and illnesses per year.
Click here to read the rest of the report from the AFL-CIO.

In a win for labor, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 85 into law, prohibiting counties and other local entities from enacting their own right-to-work laws.
Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely and Andrea Romero, the bill-turned-law invalidates right-to-work resolutions passed in 10 counties and one village.
“The passage of HB 85 Union Security Agreements is a victory for all working families in New Mexico,” the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO said in a press release. “Deceptive and divisive ‘right to work’ laws have no place in our state.
“With HB 85 now signed into law, we hope county and municipal officials will focus on actually creating good jobs, promoting healthy communities, and making our state a better place to live for all working families.”
Click here to read more about the law from NM Political Report.