It is an honor to represent you, the more than 203,000 SMART members who keep North America moving through thick and thin. We at the International in Washington, DC, strive daily to grow our union and win more opportunities for SMART members, from lobbying the federal government for rail safety policy to implementing innovative new strategies to help sheet metal workers travel to megaprojects.

And at the core of everything we do is the founding principle of SMART: We, the members, are the union.

As your general secretary-treasurer, I am committed to working with all of you to secure our collective future. Here are just a few highlights of what we have achieved:

  • In Southern California — with the help of the SMART International Political Action League (PAL), SM Local 104 (Northern California) and fellow building trades unions — SM Local 206 members helped secure San Diego’s first citywide project labor agreement (PLA) after electing pro-union city councilmembers and repealing the city’s PLA ban.
  • At Price Industries in Georgia, a rank-and-file member turned subsidized organizer, Donson Ha, has helped Local 85 achieve stellar growth among a largely Vietnamese-speaking workforce, with two Vietnamese shop stewards helping the local successfully organize in a so-called “right-to-work” state.
  • In Delaware, Local 19 was on the forefront of passing a custom fabrication bill that will protect sheet metal members by ensuring the jobsite standards we built and enforce are not undermined by nonunion competitors.

We’ve seen similar success in the Transportation Division — again, thanks to the active involvement of rank-and-file members and strong trade unionism at the local and state level:

  • Tireless advocacy by state legislative boards in Colorado and Virginia led to the advancement of rail safety legislation. In Colorado, legislation is being considered in the state House and Senate at the time of writing, while in Virginia — thanks in large part to the activism of SMART-TD railroaders who contacted their legislators — rail safety passed through both chambers of the state government before being vetoed by anti-union Governor Glenn Youngkin.
  • That follows the passage of two-person crew bills in Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota and New York in 2023, all of which were signed into law by those states’ respective governors — again, a direct result of the work put in by TD legislative boards and members in each state.
  • Members and local union officers across the country have attended Transportation Division regional training seminars in their areas in record numbers. This emphasis on targeted local education has paid off, with SMART-TD winning appeals at an elevated rate.

This is how we win. By getting active in our local unions; by mobilizing and voting for pro-union candidates; by standing in solidarity with our fellow SMART members, no matter who or where they are. I am proud to stand with every one of you as your union brother, and I hope we will all continue to fight for one another as we take on the challenges in the years to come.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

I’m writing this just after attending the Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) Conference in Washington, DC. The conference, held annually by the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU), brought together 4,000 women and allies — making this year’s event the largest yet.

As I watched and participated in TWBN, I was reminded what this union and all unions have stood for since our earliest days. This event, and the trade unionists who attend it, demonstrate the strength, solidarity and siblinghood that define our movement and make all of our lives better on a daily basis.

For many of us, it can be easy to take that for granted. We have good jobs and the amount of work out in front of us looks good for the next few years — so, being human, we get complacent. But times like these are when we need to lean in and keep the momentum we built moving forward. Nobody else will do it for us.

This is our time to march forward and set ourselves up for the future. At TWBN 2023, I witnessed extraordinary energy, as tradeswomen and allies rallied through the streets of DC. We need to capitalize on that energy — which our sisters are bringing to our movement — and push, together, to accomplish more.

Today, the public stands firmly behind us. Regardless of the division we sometimes see in the United States and the various parties operating in Canada, our fellow citizens resoundingly believe in the union movement — more than any other time since World War II. Now, it’s time to take advantage.

We know that a strong labor movement is vital to our children’s futures. I want to remind you that each of us has the power to secure that future. When your union asks for help in the upcoming months to promote good, union values to our neighbors, take that small step to help out. We have all been there for the first time, whether knocking on doors or participating in labor walks. It may seem daunting, but I assure you: It gets easier over time, and the time spent with your union brothers and sisters will be something you look upon with fondness in future years.

At TWBN 2023, I witnessed extraordinary energy, as tradeswomen and allies rallied through the streets of DC. We need to capitalize on that energy — which our sisters are bringing to our movement — and push, together, to accomplish more.

In the United States, we are heading into another election year. I want you to think about the things that are important to you and which candidates and policies will protect your family’s future. We will see familiar rhetoric from all sides. But regardless of what the issue of the day is, and what promises are made, I want to ask you to stay focused on what matters: the candidates that worked with your union to keep food on the table, money in your wallet, security for your retirement and dignity for all workers. These are strong union values, and if we stick with them, all the others will fall into place.

We all have a choice when we vote — however you vote, that is your right. I just ask that you weigh your options. When you do, I hope that providing a stable future for your family is one of your top priorities. If so, please support those candidates that support us.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

The rallying cry of the 2023 SMART Leadership Conference, “This is Our Time,” goes beyond mere words: It captures the moment of transformation we find ourselves in. The construction industry, ever-changing, presents an environment ripe for our impact. With a steadfast annual growth of 2% in construction employment, our share in the sheet metal market is positioned for a significant surge. This growth empowers us at the negotiation table, enabling us to shape various facets of the industry in unprecedented ways.

However, growth alone won’t suffice. As large-scale projects materialize, one thing is clear: We must intensify our commitment. By aligning with the vision of General President Coleman, we can not only secure a place in these substantial projects but also strengthen our foothold in essential areas like HVAC and architectural work, central to what sheet metal workers contribute to our communities and our nations.

Our advancement is evident across borders and industries, within both the sheet metal and transportation sectors. The Transportation Division stands as a prime example of collective resilience. Despite adversities, its membership grew remarkably, a testament to our members’ unwavering dedication. In the midst of challenges in freight rail, transit, bus and passenger rail industries, your determination to stand united demonstrates the true essence of the labor movement — the power of solidarity in surmounting obstacles.

SMART sheet metal and Transportation Division workers stand up for good jobs and safety in California.

The past decade has been a period marked by trials, each fueling our evolution into the union we are today: one primed to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. From the hurdles posed by a pandemic to tough negotiations and assaults on crew consist, our steadfast commitment to progress is undeniable. The time is now to capitalize on our momentum. The majority of the American and Canadian public recognizes the significance of the labor movement, perhaps more so than at any time since the Great Depression. Our communities stand beside us, advocating for change and acknowledging our role in shaping a prosperous future. They’ve witnessed alternatives that prioritize cost-cutting, resulting in job losses and disasters like the events in East Palestine earlier this year.

Our unity, tireless effort and unwavering devotion provide a solid foundation for a future filled with even more promise.

Our unity, tireless effort and unwavering devotion provide a solid foundation for a future filled with even more promise. Collectively, we stand ready to shape our industries, our communities, and secure a legacy that resonates with future generations. Fueled by unyielding determination, we echo the resounding call: “This is Our Time!”

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

I want to begin by congratulating Michael Coleman on his election by the SMART General Executive Council to serve as our General President. I have worked with Mike for years and look forward to where he will lead us as we move forward together, in solidarity.

In this pivotal moment, we stand at the crossroads of opportunity and challenge. The 2024 election looms ahead, presenting us with a chance to continue to shape the course of our nation’s future. At the same time, rapid technological advancements are revolutionizing the way we live, work and connect. We must seize this moment to prepare for the upcoming election, embrace the promise of technological innovation and position our union to navigate the changes that lie ahead.

The 2024 election will influence our nation for decades to come. We need to elect allies who stand by our union and work with us to improve the lives of SMART members, our industries and our families. There is too much at stake for us to turn back to an administration when we were constantly defending ourselves from attack after attack on the standards we set for generations of Americans.

Now is the time to engage in active political participation, to become informed about the issues that matter most to us as union members and to exercise our right to vote. By understanding the platforms and policies of political candidates, we can make informed choices that align with our union values. This means voting for those who stand with us on rail safety, new work opportunities for sheet metal workers, bringing back domestic jobs and ensuring working people are treated fairly.

Now is our time to act and position our union for a future of progress and prosperity. Let us come together, transcend differences and work towards a common goal: a dynamic union that thrives amidst change, that embraces innovation, and that uplifts each and every one of its members.

In parallel, technological innovation has become an integral part of our daily lives, transforming industries and societies alike — and we must prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. Investing in training for the sheet metal industry of tomorrow is crucial for SMART to remain at the forefront of innovation. By promoting our role in rebuilding America’s infrastructure through new data centers, electric battery plants and microchip plants and improving the quality of air in our schools, we will ensure our union is equipped to tackle the challenges and embrace the opportunities that the future holds.

Lastly, we must strive to build a united and inclusive union. Nurturing our solidarity through programs like I Got Your Back and embracing diversity and inclusion are vital to our growth, our competitiveness and our collective efforts to fulfill the core goal of our union — representation for all members. Doing this puts us on the forefront of creating a society that is fair and just for all, addressing systemic issues and securing equal opportunities for everyone.

Now is the time to act and position our union for a future of progress and prosperity. Let us come together, transcend differences and work towards a common goal: a dynamic union that thrives amidst change, that embraces innovation, and that uplifts each and every one of its members.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. on his upcoming retirement.

Over the past 10 years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Joe during my time as a General Vice President, Assistant to the General President and the General Secretary-Treasurer, and I have seen his passion and attention to detail first-hand. Joe has always been a tireless advocate for the hardworking men and women this union represents, across all sectors of the transportation, production and construction industries. He has been a leader in the fight for respect on the job, new work opportunities and safe working conditions for all SMART members.

The progress he helped lead during the past 10 years is comparable to what other leaders would have been proud to achieve over the course of decades. He lobbied for pro-worker policies including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and rail safety legislation, bringing the voice of SMART’s membership to the halls of power in Washington, DC, Ottawa and beyond. He was a constant supporter of the work of the SMART Women’s Committee, which has provided invaluable support and mentorship to women in our union. He was a driving force behind the creation of the I Got Your Back campaign, which promoted solidarity between members of all backgrounds across SMART. His leadership has been invaluable in helping to bring greater diversity and inclusion to our union, including the formation of the BE4ALL Committee and Recruitment and Retention Council, and to making sure that the voices of all our members are valued and respected.

Joe has always been a tireless advocate for the hardworking men and women this union represents, across all sectors of the transportation and construction industries. He has been a leader in the fight for respect on the job, new work opportunities and safe working conditions for all SMART members.

Looking towards the future, I look forward to working with Michael Coleman. Mike and I have had the opportunity to work together over the past four years. We have talked about the future and believe that together we will be able to achieve great things for this union. I believe that with Mike’s dedication to the members, we will continue to take great strides in creating more work opportunities for our members.

The example Joe leaves us is one of true unionism: He embodies the idea that when we stand together and fight for what is right, we can make real progress. As we look to the future, we do so with the knowledge that Joe’s tireless efforts have put us on the path to a brighter tomorrow. Thank you, Joe, for your service to SMART and the labor movement. Your legacy of success will continue to inspire us for years to come.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

As union workers, we know elections have consequences. That’s why SMART members spent the weeks leading up to Election Day 2022 working tirelessly to support candidates, ballot measures and policy initiatives that empower the working class. From sheet metal and Transportation Division members in Nevada to Local 17 workers in Boston — and well beyond — rank-and-file members joined local leaders to hit the phones, the doors and the pavement to secure our future.

That hard work paid off.

In my hometown of San Diego, SMART Local 206 members led the charge with other building trades unions to inform community members about voting “yes” on Ballot Measure D, which eliminated the city’s ban on project labor agreements. The “Yes on D” campaign brought together unions across crafts and trades to achieve a transformative win that will improve the lives of construction workers and local families for years to come.

In Pennsylvania, members knocked on doors, marched in parades and talked to their coworkers about the importance of electing pro-worker candidates who will stand against so-called “right to work” laws that damage our ability to collectively bargain. And on election night, Pennsylvania elected pro-worker candidates Josh Shapiro as governor and John Fetterman to the Senate — giving SMART members two fierce allies at the state and federal levels.

Illinois members teamed up with other unions to support the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which added a new section to the Illinois state Bill of Rights guaranteeing workers’ fundamental right to organize, to bargain collectively, to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions, and to promote their economic welfare and safety at work.

In Kansas, the SMART Transportation Division facilitated a top-to-bottom electoral campaign that saw Governor Laura Kelly re-elected and ousted an attorney general who opposed two-person crews.

A divided America is not good for any of us. We must continue to work hard to educate our members and legislators from both sides of the aisle about good, safe jobs that help Americans live the American dream.

And in Minnesota, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, SMART members and families turned out in force to elect Governor Tim Walz, Senator Mark Kelly, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Senator Raphael Warnock.

These victories will give SMART members across our nation something better than a voice: elected officials who act on our behalf.

Unfortunately, we were not successful in retaining a majority consisting of candidates that fought for workers’ rights in the House. We have already seen the chaos and gridlock a divided Congress can create, and there is no doubt these officials will attempt to roll back some of the gains that have been made over the past two years. But thanks to our strong showing on November 8th, we have allies in office who will side with us against those attacks.

A divided America is not good for any of us. We must continue to work hard to educate our members and legislators from both sides of the aisle about good, safe jobs that help Americans live the American dream.

I want to thank you for your votes. Your advocacy will make the difference for working people across our country in the years to come.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer