If you’re like me, then the arrival of another election year is no cause for excitement.

Politics can feel divisive and tedious, particularly in recent years. That’s why many of us choose to exercise our power through the labor movement, where we can band together with fellow workers and take action. We show up at union meetings to win strong contracts and worker protections; we walk the picket line to support our union brothers and sisters; we make collective decisions to fund our pensions and keep our local unions healthy.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is this: Anti-worker corporations and the ultra-wealthy will always be involved in the political process, funding politicians who oppose workers’ rights and union jobs. If we leave the playing field, we will forfeit every gain we made to them and their agenda. They will be the only voices heard by those empowered to write the laws that govern your workplace.

One thing we have learned is that their money is no match for our solidarity, and recent victories have shown how crucial it is that we show up in the electoral arena.

SMART members leapt into political action in the last several years, electing pro-union politicians in 2020 and mobilizing for laws that benefit our families. The results speak for themselves: a recently passed federal two-person crew regulation that protects our railroaders’ safety and job security; federal funding for high-speed rail projects that create jobs for SMART sheet metal workers and railroaders; a surge of megaprojects putting members to work across the United States and Canada; funding that saved SMART members’ pensions; massive investments in public transit and Amtrak; updates to prevailing wage regulations that lift pay for construction workers; and so much more.

“Politics can feel like a chore, but when we work collectively to win pro-union politicians and policies, we materially benefit our jobs, our families and our futures.”

That’s just at the federal level. We know that even more impactful change happens locally. For example, SMART members in Oregon and Connecticut gained enormous amounts of indoor air quality work by partnering with pro-union state legislators and education officials.

Compare those wins with the anti-worker policies of the past. It wasn’t too long ago that we were fighting a Federal Railroad Administration that withdrew a proposed two-person crew rule, and a Department of Labor that tried to replace our apprenticeships with Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). We were constantly on defense.

I prefer offense — winning real gains, not trying to hold on to what we already have.

Brothers and sisters, this isn’t about party affiliation or who says the right thing when they stump for our votes at the union hall. This is about acting for us: the working people who power our nations. Politics can feel like a chore, but when we work collectively to win pro-union politicians and policies, we materially benefit our jobs, our families and our futures.

So I urge you to do just that. Whether it’s a phone bank, a labor walk or simply telling your friends and family to show up to the ballot box, join me in getting involved in the political process this year.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

As we enter 2024, I hope all of you — no matter your faiths, traditions or beliefs — were able to enjoy well-deserved time with your loved ones during the holiday season. You are the men and women who keep our two nations moving, whether carrying freight, transporting passengers or building the battery plants and chip factories of our new industrial revolution. On behalf of myself and the SMART General Executive Council, I want to thank you for all that you do.

Last year we began to not just see, but to live the rewards of the hard-won battles we fought in the past. Federal legislation that we helped pass in 2021 and 2022 — such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act — helped spur record levels of public and private investment in the construction industry. This is already changing lives for SMART sheet metal workers and our families. As just one example, a Ford megaproject in Kentucky has helped SMART Local 110 nearly double in size as we organize and recruit to meet workforce demands — boosting the local’s collective bargaining power, lifting area working conditions, benefiting Local 110 retirees and so much more.

“We know we have more to do, from organizing nonunion sheet metal workers, to ending the pernicious wave of assaults on bus and transit operators.”

Around this time in 2023, railroaders were just emerging from a long, bitter contract dispute with the Class I railroad carriers — one in which the carriers infamously argued that “capital investment and risk are the reasons for their profits, not any contributions by labor.” It would have been easy for members to be discouraged. But instead, railroaders stood together in unwavering solidarity, making use of new media attention and public support to go on offense. At one time, the carriers maintained that they would never negotiate on quality-of-life issues, but in the last year alone, SMART-TD members have ratified tentative agreements with Norfolk Southern, BNSF and Union Pacific that make substantial improvements to sick pay, scheduling and more — setting an important precedent and demonstrating the true power of labor.

Those are just two of our fights from the last year. We know we have more to do, from organizing nonunion sheet metal workers, to ending the pernicious wave of assaults on bus and transit operators. I promise you, we will continue to fight these battles, and we will see victory in the end.

2024 is an election year. We all know what that entails: a wave of political posturing and overtures to working Americans through November. But we also know how important elections are — we’ve seen their impact in the last year alone. This election will present us with a stark choice: pro-union candidates who act on our behalf to secure our future, or two-faced politicians who are beholden only to their corporate donors. I know which option I’m choosing.

So, brothers and sisters, as we look towards 2024, let’s seize this moment. Let’s build a future that will benefit our families and our communities for generations to come.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

On September 4, SMART members joined our fellow brothers and sisters from across the labor movement to celebrate Labor Day. From New Brunswick, Canada, to Los Angeles, California — and everywhere in between — we hit the pavement to show our unity and recognize the working men and women who fought for the workplace protections Americans and Canadians enjoy today.

Labor Day is more than just a long weekend that signals the unofficial end of summer. It is the only holiday that honors us. It is the one day that specifically pays tribute to the men and women who built our two countries — and who continue to do so.

As SMART members, we know that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Generations ago, the founding members of our predecessor unions — the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) and the United Transportation Unions (UTU) — came together around the principles of solidarity and equality for all, uniting with their fellow workers for safety on the job, fair pay, quality healthcare and a stable retirement. Our union has fought on behalf of members, our families and workers all over the United States and Canada ever since. Together with our fellow sisters and brothers in labor, we are part of a movement that has been at the forefront of justice and equality, from the fight for the eight-hour workday to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The legacy established by the trade unionists who came before us continues to this day. Whether passing two-person crew legislation in states across America or securing job-creating federal legislation for sheet metal workers across both of our nations, we have built upon the progress that our predecessors won. Now, our time has come to seize this moment and grow our union.

We live in an era of opportunity — the kind we have not seen in generations. From strong labor language in Canada’s proposed federal budget, to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., federal legislation is creating unheard-of workforce opportunities — requiring local unions to add more apprenticeship classes and organize like never before. Just recently, the Biden administration reintroduced a Davis-Bacon provision that was removed under the Reagan administration and lay dormant ever since. Now it is back and will create even more high-paying jobs for union construction workers across the U.S. by ensuring OUR wage rates set the standard on federally funded projects.

We live in an era of opportunity — the kind we have not seen in generations.

Media attention on railroad and transit safety is bringing our issues to the American public, providing our union with new momentum as we fight for laws and regulations that protect members. Recently released data revealed that 71% of Americans approve of unions, including 88% of Americans under 30. The workers of the future DEMAND the protections and rights that only we can offer.

So, brothers and sisters, let’s take advantage of this moment. Just like the founders of our unions fought for the basic rights and protections we enjoy today, let’s organize. Let’s bring everyone into our union, no matter their gender, their race or their creed. Let’s elect leaders who act on our behalf. And let’s secure the future for those who will remember us tomorrow.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

Brothers and sisters, I want to start by saying that it is the honor of my lifetime to represent you, the men and women of SMART.

This great union has given me and my family everything we have; I promise to dedicate myself to ensuring every member, current and future, has the same opportunity. And make no mistake: Thanks in no small part to General President Sellers, this is a time of unprecedented opportunity for workers in North America

In the sheet metal industry, we are seeing an extraordinary amount of new work across our two nations: dozens of megaprojects with strong labor standards, the return of manufacturing in America, a new emphasis on indoor air quality and more.

Following the disaster in East Palestine and increased media pressure, the SMART Transportation Division is seeing real movement on rail safety for the first time in years, both at the state level and with the steady progress of the federal Railway Safety Act.

Transit operator safety is making headlines in states across the country, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, providing the public awareness and momentum to finally secure real change to the unacceptable status quo.

The actions we take today will determine the future for our communities, our families and our union for decades to come. The time is now — let’s take advantage of it.

This is our moment. But only if we act.

The time is now to grow:

Megaprojects are creating workforce demands that are nearly unheard of — and that’s not even mentioning our core work. On both the International and the local level, we need to ensure that we are recruiting and welcoming people from all the communities in which we live and work: women, people of color, LGBTQ+ workers, veterans, the formerly incarcerated and more.

The time is now to get involved:

SMART-TD is on offense. But momentum and media attention are not constant; we cannot wait to make our presence felt in our communities and in the offices of our elected officials. Push your elected representatives and U.S. Senators to vote for a strong, pro-worker Railway Safety Act, and connect with your local union to find out what legislation, regulation or organizing is happening in your area. One example: On April 26, the Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) posted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding public transportation agency safety plans; SMART-TD has worked with bus members and vice presidents to submit a compelling argument on members’ behalf.

The time is now to organize:

We cannot expect to apprentice our way into the growth we need to secure our future. By organizing nonunion workers across all crafts and industries into SMART, we will bolster our collective bargaining power, increase our market share and help communities across our two nations realize the value of union membership: family-sustaining pay, meaningful benefits, a strong pension and dignity on the job.

Brothers and sisters, the actions we take today will determine the future for our communities, our families and our union for decades to come. The time is now — let’s take advantage of it.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

On January 24, 2023, I announced my retirement as SMART General President.

Serving the membership of our union has been a great honor. My family and I have a first-hand understanding of the transformative impact our union can have on a person’s life — through my own life experience and through the daily interactions I have with members from the transportation and sheet metal industries across our two nations.

As you know, I am a sheet metal worker by trade, like my father was before me. Everything I have, and everything my family has, came about because of our union. I’ve had countless conversations with members who have had similar experiences — who, thanks to SMART and the solidarity of our fellow members, have been able to pursue family-sustaining careers and have retired or are on the path to retiring with dignity.

When our two unions formed to create SMART, it was to strengthen ourselves through unity, so that we could make advancements and bring opportunity to sheet metal and transportation workers across the United States and Canada. As General Secretary-Treasurer and General President, I witnessed our first two SMART General Conventions in history. As I look back today, I can say with confidence that our decision to stand together as one has proven to be successful, with our union making real progress throughout the years.

Thanks to the collective effort of SMART members over the decades, the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund was certified in the Green Zone last year. We successfully lobbied for pro-worker legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as funding for the Union Training Innovation Program and the Labour Mobility Tax Deduction for Tradespeople in Canada. All have made enormous investments in each of our industries: The American Rescue Plan put workers back on the agenda, including pension relief.

I am a sheet metal worker by trade, like my father was before me. Everything I have, and everything my family has, came about because of our union.

I am particularly proud of the strides we have made in recruitment and retention. From the SMART Heroes program to the inspiring growth of our SMART Women’s Committee, this union has committed to the work of making sure every community can access the opportunities that I had: good, union, middle class jobs, family-sustaining salaries, pension and health care plans.

United, we successfully lobbied for pro-worker legislation with real labor standards. Together, we have fought tirelessly against Precision Scheduled Railroading and for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require two-person crews on freight trains. With an engaged membership and renewed public awareness, we have a real chance for change in rail safety regulation. We have planned together to organize aggressively in all sectors, and we will continue to build on our tradition of solidarity as we move forward.

The time has come now for me to pass that tradition on to new leadership. Michael Coleman, your Assistant to the General President, will serve as the new General President starting on June 1. Mike has dedicated himself to our union since the day he joined SMART in 1985, playing a key role in facilitating the 2019 General Convention, and he will serve each and every one of us with the same drive and passion.

Brothers and sisters, this is our moment. This is due to the members who continue to make their voices heard loud and clear across our two nations, and with leadership who continually fight to hold elected officials at every level accountable on the issues we face. With Michael Coleman as our General President, and with the commitment of the membership to our cause, we will seize this moment for ourselves, our families and future generations.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.

The new year began with a reminder of just how crucial our electoral efforts are to the future of our jobs, our families and our union.

In January 2023, members of the Biden administration joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers to highlight infrastructure work breaking ground across the United States. From Connecticut, to Kentucky, to San Francisco, elected officials touted projects funded by legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act that will put SMART members to work rebuilding our nation.

In Connecticut, for example, SM Local 40 and the SMART Northeast Regional Council helped secure a project labor agreement for work improving Bradley International Airport — including approximately $20 million earmarked for indoor air quality work. These jobs are critical for sheet metal workers across the country, both those in locals challenged by the influx of new work and members who can travel to the many megaprojects coming online. The legislation spurring these projects is a direct result of our votes and our advocacy with elected officials. SMART members past, present and future will benefit from the electoral victories we have achieved.

The new year also saw the commencement of the 118th U.S. Congress, which included some elected anti-worker politicians, as House Republicans took a slim majority in the House of Representatives. Dysfunction, chaos and pay-to-play concessions followed in the attempts to elect a Speaker of the House. The GOP banning the newly organized Congressional Workers Union in early January is a clear indicator of what we can expect over the next two years: hyper-partisan gridlock, petty infighting and a disregard for workers’ rights. This is a direct contrast to what President Biden stated in 2021: “It’s the workers’ rights to form a union, not the employer.” The pro-labor political victories we have enjoyed since 2020 will be harder to match in the coming Congress, with razor-thin margins likely to decide votes on key bills that will help working families. But we worked with similarly slim margins in the last Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan, which provided retirement security, as well as the legislation I listed previously — all producing an investment in good, union, middle-class jobs, and bringing U.S. manufacturing back to America. Make no mistake: We will continue to work with pro-worker politicians, regardless of party, to pass laws that benefit our members.

Make no mistake: We will continue to work with pro-worker politicians, regardless of party, to pass laws that benefit our members.

In Canada, SMART had substantive input into portions of the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement. The government continued increased investment in the Union Training Innovation Program and linked tax subsidies and credits for green energy technologies in the private sector to good paying jobs, with commitments to apprenticeship, subject to prevailing wage. Canada’s Building Trades Unions will continue to be consulted, and we are leveraging 195 training centres as an opportunity for increased funding and sustainable jobs.

As always, the year ahead will bring challenges. We know that our battle against anti-worker corporate policies like Precision Scheduled Railroading and crew consist is only just beginning. We are in it for the long haul, and we will continue to pressure and work with rail industry stakeholders to bring relief to the workers who kept America moving when it was needed most. As long as we stand together as one union, bonded by our unbreakable solidarity, we will win those fights.

I look forward to all that we will achieve in 2023. Stay safe!

In solidarity,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.

Make no mistake: In the United States, the upcoming midterm election is vitally important to the advancement of the pro-worker agenda. Normally this would sound cliché, but all it takes is a look at current events to understand what our country is facing. Our jobs, our democracy and our families’ futures are on the line, and the decisions that will be made in the coming two years will determine our success moving forward.

The members of our union have made historic progress in the past 21 months. Instead of a cold shoulder for labor and our interests, we now have open door access in the Oval Office and in Congress, giving us a voice on decisions that affect the lives of workers and their families. We now have a seat at the table; we are able to advocate for your livelihood on matters of policy and planning. This new access has paid off. Time after time, our allies in Congress and the current administration did more than elicit words of support; they acted on your priorities as union men and women.

In fact, no administration or Congress since the 1930s has accomplished so much working with labor in so little time. Since January 2021, we have seen the elimination of the Cadillac tax on members’ and retirees’ health care; the strengthening of multiemployer retirement programs and retirement security; the reintroduction of a two-person crew rule that would make the rule of two a federal regulation; and a historic infrastructure package that goes beyond funds for roads and bridges, directing federal resources to critical rail infrastructure improvements — with a real safety review and operator protections — as well as cleaner and safer building indoor air quality (IAQ) work, all of which will deliver thousands of jobs to SMART members. Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), introduced by the previous administration to undermine our long-standing registered apprenticeship programs, were eliminated. This new administration and Congress prioritized a pro-organizing initiative to ensure that workers looking to form a union and strengthen your collective bargaining power were met with serious support.

The members of our union have made historic progress in the past 21 months.

All of these substantial advances were made because of the work we put in to support pro-labor elected officials from both parties. That includes officials like Don Bacon, a Republican member of Congress from Nebraska who stands with SMART members on the issues that matter to working families, as well as Tim Ryan — a long-time proworker candidate who never forgot his blue-collar values and has spent his career standing up for workers. We don’t look at party label — we look to support those who do more than just promise; who act on our behalf.

Unfortunately, there are special interests who are looking to reverse our gains. A network of anti-worker groups and corporations are quietly funding and assisting those opposed to our values. They want a return to the days when workers had no say in the direction of this nation, and they see themselves as the sole arbiters of what is best for us, our families and our jobs. They care only about their own profit and power. We cannot hand the reins back over to them; we cannot let them rule over our lives and dictate our families’ futures.

We have come far in only 21 months – and we still have ground to cover as we work to make sure working families are prioritized in the halls of power. I urge you to vote on November 8th to secure your future by locking in the gains we have made.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.