SMART members across the United States and Canada are the frontline workers helping to build a sustainable future – from roofers installing green roofs to meet net zero goal in Canada, to transit workers helping reduce automobile emissions, to sheet metal workers constructing LEED-certified buildings across our two nations. In a recent interview with Climate Jobs National Resource Center (NRC) New York, SMART Local 28 (New York City) draftsman/sketcher Kandice Rogers, an 11-year union member, detailed the crucial role SMART workers play – and will continue to play – in the fight against climate breakdown.
“As the climate crisis continues to worsen, it’ll be our job [as union members] to make sure that people can continue to live in the spaces they want to live in,” she said in the interview.
Rogers originally applied for the Local 28 apprenticeship program on the advice of her best friend’s dad, a union member himself. She had graduated college with an architecture degree but found herself trying to enter the workforce during the Great Recession, when there were simply no jobs. So, after completing a pre-apprenticeship program, she entered the union, starting in HVAC duct installation before moving to the sketching department.
“Before coming into this work, I had no idea what it meant being union,” Rogers told Climate Jobs NRC. “Now, I can’t imagine a life without being a union member. Being a union member has allowed me to have job security. I was able to buy a home, start a family, and have a comfortable life because I’m a union member. If I had known about [apprenticeships] in high school, I would have come straight here, but I’m just glad I’m here now.”
Rogers said she experienced the growing ramifications of climate change back in her installation days, when inordinately high temperatures sent her to the hospital with heat-induced dehydration. As volatile weather conditions continue to increase, she pointed out, working conditions – particularly for construction workers – will deteriorate correspondingly.
In the interview, Climate Jobs NRC pointed out that a number of New York unions are “organizing to make public schools safer, healthier, and carbon-free by upgrading HVAC systems.” Rogers elaborated on the importance of that effort for the students of today as well as future generations.
“We have new technology now, things like Heat Recovery Systems, that help recycle the air and reduce the energy use of these HVAC systems,” she explained. “We can reduce the spread of Covid and other airborne viruses, lower the carbon footprint of these buildings, and reduce energy costs all at the same time now. We’ll need HVAC to survive whatever changes are happening to our climate.”
“Ultimately, as a mom, I want my son to be able to go to places like school without getting sick,” she added.