President Biden speaks union members at the 2022 NABTU Legislative Conference,

On May 23, 2023, the SMART General Executive Council (GEC) voted to endorse United States President Joe Biden for a second term. The GEC is elected by members of SMART local unions.

SMART workers will join fellow union members in Philadelphia on June 17 for an endorsement event, where workers will highlight the impact of the Biden administration’s pro-labor economic policies.  

“President Biden’s first term has been a transformative one for SMART members and working people across our nation,” said SMART General President Mike Coleman. “His unapologetically pro-worker agenda led to the passage of laws that protect union members’ retirement security, invest unprecedented dollars in our industries and ensure that SMART members will be on the job for decades to come.” 

President Biden meets with SMART Local 49 Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer Isaiah Zemke.

During his first term, President Biden kept his campaign promises to SMART members and working families, putting workers first with the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as an executive order requiring project labor agreements on federal projects that cost more than $35 million and a partnership with SMART on improving air quality in buildings.   

Under the Biden-Harris administration, a wave of new megaprojects is employing SMART sheet metal and production members by the thousands, while a pro-labor National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has helped hold bad-faith employers accountable and benefited union organizing and recruiting efforts. The Biden-Harris Federal Railroad Administration has proposed a regulation requiring two-person crews on all freight trains, and federal funding has put SMART sheet metal members to work on critical infrastructure projects that will better the working conditions of SMART Transportation Division members.  

The Biden administration pushed for megaprojects to include strong labor standards that put SMART members to work.

“We know that the job isn’t finished,” Coleman said. “Even as the American economy continues to grow from the bottom up and the middle out, anti-labor politicians and their bad-faith benefactors are intent on stifling that growth and returning to an economy ruled from the top down. We have progress to make, from passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to securing real rail safety regulation.”  

“With Joe Biden as our president, we are confident that we will continue to make progress for working people,” he added. “SMART is proud to endorse President Biden for the 2024 United States Presidential Election, and we look forward to mobilizing in support of the president and pro-worker candidates down the ballot.” 

President Biden with SMART Local 359 member Raymond Calvin.

SMART’s relentless political advocacy over recent years has helped foster massive infrastructure investment on both public and private projects. From New York state, to Central Ohio, to Arizona and well beyond, megaprojects are creating tens of thousands of jobs for SMART sheet metal workers — all with a presidential administration that is pushing hard for these projects to include strong labor standards that create union jobs.

“Right now we’re tracking close to 300 megaprojects — we know that there will be about 60 that will break ground, are currently started or will be starting this year,” said SMART Chief International Representative Scott Parks. “It wasn’t that long ago that a $1 million sheet metal job was very exciting; now we have 60 megaprojects in the pipeline. It’s a good time to be a sheet metal worker.”

Much of the public funding for these projects comes from legislation passed by the Biden administration: the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Due to the unprecedented role labor has played in the passage and assembly of those laws, companies hoping to take advantage of funding and tax incentives are being pushed to build with strong labor standards in place, bringing good, union jobs to projects breaking ground from coast to coast.

Importantly, Parks pointed out, these jobs require a consistent sheet metal presence, keeping our members at work as technology advances, during retooling and reorganization, and during outages and shutdowns. And the specific skills and crafts required on such projects cover nearly all the sheet metal positions that SMART represents: from frontline supervisors, to testers and balancers, to welders, to everyone else.

“If you can imagine balancing a project that could require 100 balancers — geographically, you may only have 100 balancers in two states,” he explained. “So we’re going to be challenged to make sure we tool up our members so that they’re prepared to take care of these projects.”

The bounty of work on the horizon has created an unprecedented moment of opportunity. According to Parks, the current number of megaprojects breaking ground means one can almost make a projection 10 years out — a far cry from the post-2008 years, when SMART leadership balked at speculating even two or three years into the future. But with that opportunity comes new responsibility.

“We are not going to be able to apprentice our way into the workforce we need to meet these demands — we are not going to be able to do things the way we have always done it in the past, period,” explained SMART General President Michael Coleman. “We have got to put an exceptional focus on organizing, recruiting and retaining in every community.”

SMART members and local unions know the differences between a union career and a nonunion gig: stability, family-sustaining pay and benefits, solidarity and safety on the job, to name only a few. Now, with hundreds of huge jobs breaking ground from Oregon to Atlanta — on top of SMART local unions’ core work — the time is now to bring members into our union.

“When it comes to organizing and recruiting, we’re organizing shops, we’re organizing projects — folks who want to be union sheet metal workers, we’ll bring them in,” Parks explained. “If they’re in an apprenticeship program that may not be a sheet metal apprenticeship program, we’re bringing them in so they have the best chance of success moving forward. If someone comes in as a nonunion journeyperson, that’s great too — we want everyone.”

Many of these projects may provide SMART members in other locations with the opportunity to travel for work. For more information on traveling to jobsites, contact your local business manager and visit the SMART sheet metal job bank.

United States Secretary of Education Miguel Car­dona laid out the Department of Education’s priorities for 2023 during a Raising the Bar event in January — including a new focus on helping students achieve careers in the jobs created by the CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infra­structure Law. SMART attended the event and applauds the Department of Education’s commitment to helping students secure good, union jobs in our industries.

An image of the TSMC chip plant project in Phoenix, Arizona
Construction on the TSMC chip plant in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo courtesy of TSMC.

New chip plant megaprojects continue to create jobs for SMART sheet metal workers across North America – including in Arizona, where huge projects have led to unprecedented job growth and a boom in the membership of SM Local 259 (Phoenix, Ariz.)

“We’ve been able to increase our membership. In 2017-18, we had 500 members, and we currently have about 850, so it’s created a lot of organizing opportunities for us,” said Jeff Holly, Local 359 business manager and financial secretary-treasurer, during a recent interview with SMART News. “All of our funds are super healthy – health and welfare, pension funds, down to general fund activity at the hall. … It’s helped out the membership a lot.”

In Chandler, Ariz., an Intel chip plant is expected to employ more than 300 sheet metal workers at its peak and continue for two to three years. And in Phoenix, Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) – the world’s largest manufacturer of advanced microchips – is building its first major U.S. production site, more than tripling its initial planned investment. The project currently employs over 400 sheet metal workers and is expected to last for three to five years.

Watch Jeff Holly’s interview on the Arizona chip plant projects on SMART News.

These chip plant projects specifically benefit SMART sheet metal workers, Holly explained.

“Everything’s got to be super clean, there’s a lot of filtration that goes into [chip plant construction] – a lot of scrubber work, exhaust, so they’re fairly labor intensive for sheet metal workers,” he said. “Most of the duct they’re using is rather large, so it ends up [requiring] more people than we used to use.”

The chip plant projects in Arizona mirror similar developments across the continent, including in Ohio, upstate New York and more. Like in Arizona, such projects provide opportunities not only for SMART sheet metal workers, but for locals aiming to organize, grow their membership and expand their market share. And while the Arizona chip plants were underway before the passage of labor-friendly legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, Holly told SMART News that such laws will benefit SMART members moving forward.

“Since the CHIPS Act was enacted,” he said “we’re looking at the possibility of having our first large-scale project labor agreement being signed out at the TSMC project, which is something that the Arizona State Building Trades has never had really any success [with]. Even though these weren’t planned when these acts were enacted, I think they’re going to pay dividends in the very near future.”

Whether chip plants, data centers, electric vehicle battery plants or infrastructure jobs, megaprojects are expected to continue breaking ground across the United States and Canada in the near future. Members interested in traveling to work these jobs should visit the Sheet Metal Job Bank for more information.


Megaprojects in the News

President Biden delivered his second State of the Union address on February 7, 2023 – outlining the ways in which the Biden administration’s economic plan is delivering results for working families. SMART issued the following statement in response:

“On the campaign trail and during his first State of the Union speech last year, President Biden made big promises: substantial infrastructure investment for the first time in decades, the return of manufacturing to America, and an economy that works from the bottom up and the middle out, not the top down. Now, two years after the president’s inauguration, we can say that the Biden administration is delivering on those promises.

“President Biden signed legislation like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act into law: saving hundreds of thousands of union pensions, providing the most significant investments into our country’s infrastructure and semiconductor production in generations, and making the largest American investment in clean energy ever. These investments have already put thousands of SMART sheet metal members to work, and they will drastically improve the health and working conditions of our Transportation Division members across sectors.

“Since President Biden took office, more than 200 companies have announced private investment in manufacturing, utilities and energy to the tune of $700 billion, across all 50 states. Our members are already working these jobs, from solar panel production facilities in New York to data centers in Arizona.

“And after two years of President Biden’s agenda, the American economy has created more than 12 million jobs, with an unemployment rate of 3.4% – a 54-year low.

“But, as the president made clear in this year’s State of the Union, there is more work to do. We look forward to working with Congress and this administration to end the anti-worker corporate scheme that is Precision Scheduled Railroading. And we call on Congress to pass a billionaire minimum tax, which will finally see the one percent pay their fair share and ease the damaging impact of inflation for working families; expand the Child Tax Credit, which will lift more children and families out of poverty; extend the Inflation Reduction Act’s price cap on insulin to all Americans; and pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which will make it easier for workers to form a union.”

Two years of pro-worker policy have led to a wealth of opportunity for SMART sheet metal workers, now and into the future. Across the country, companies are once again investing in American manufacturing: building and maintaining facilities for electric vehicle batteries, data centers, semiconductor production and more — all of which require the expertise of SMART members.

I just appreciate SMART leadership and the Biden administration doing what needed to be done to get the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed, because we really needed this in all of our communities to build back the working class.”

SMART Local 83 members have worked for years on a GlobalFoundries chip plant in Malta, N.Y. Now, thanks to the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, GlobalFoundries is building an entire new building to expand its existing plant — a development Local 83 Business Manager Frank Maguire said will keep members “very busy for the next five to 10 years.” In addition, Local 83 members will help build the first wind turbine facility in the U.S., located in the Port of Albany.

“We have a very bright outlook for sheet metal workers in the Albany, New York area,” Maguire added.

SMART members in the Southwest Gulf Coast region can also look forward to a bounty of new work in the coming years, including a Meta data center ($30 billion of work); a Samsung project ($207 billion of work); a Texas Instruments semiconductor project in Sherman, Texas ($30 billion of work); and the next phase of a Tesla plant.

“This is the most work for our members in 20–25 years, and it’s creating good-paying, union construction jobs,” said SMART Southwest Gulf Coast Regional President Bill Kenyon. “I just appreciate SMART leadership and the Biden administration doing what needed to be done to get the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed, because we really needed this in all of our communities to build back the working class.”

The surge in megaprojects extends beyond the United States’ borders. In Canada, a $4.9 billion battery plant in Windsor, Ontario, will require 10 million pounds of galvanized duct to be manufactured in Toronto. That duct will then be installed by SM Local 235 members in Windsor.

“We’re hoping to get all the sheet metal work on the whole project, plus all the roofing,” said Michael Mahon, business manager/financial secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers in Windsor. “It’ll employ anywhere from 300–500 sheet metal workers and roofers.”

And in the Kansas City, Mo. area, SMART Local 2 workers will be called to work on two large data centers in the near future: a two-million-square-foot Meta data center and a $4.9 billion Panasonic battery factory in Kansas. That’s in addition to a biomedical facility in Manhattan, Kansas, to be constructed in conjunction with the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) that Local 2 members have worked on for the last five years. All told, these projects will bring an unprecedented number of jobs to area SMART members.

“We think [the Panasonic project] is going to be one of the largest projects that’s ever been done in Local 2’s jurisdiction,” explained Local 2 Business Manager Greg Chastain.

These megaprojects exemplify the historic progress that SMART has made in the last two years — and we will continue to organize to build our strength as we move into the future.