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

Joseph Sellers, Jr., general president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), announced his retirement on January 24, 2023. Sellers will retire on May 31, 2023, and will be succeeded by current Assistant to the General President Michael Coleman. Sellers has served as general president since May of 2015, when he succeeded prior General President Joseph Nigro.

“After nearly three decades in SMART local and national leadership, I have chosen to retire,” said Sellers. “It will always be the greatest honor to have represented you — the women and men who embody the highest level of professionalism and expertise in our industries.”

“Your selfless dedication was especially on display during the pandemic, which had an unprecedented effect on all of us and people around the world,” he added.

“You were on the job every day: working on new construction, retrofitting buildings into pop-up hospitals, redesigning hospital configurations, manufacturing much-needed equipment, ensuring the transportation of people and goods, and keeping our supply chain intact and our buildings and schools safe during a tenuous time in our history.”

General President Joseph Sellers discussed his retirement on SMART News.

Sellers — a second-generation sheet metal worker whose father spent 55 years as a SMART member and 30 years as a local union officer — has often said that “all that my family has comes from my father’s career path and the union sheet metal industry.” Sellers devoted more than four decades to his union, committing himself to lead at every level of SMART. He began his apprenticeship in 1980 at Local 19 in Philadelphia, becoming a journeyperson four years later. He was elected to the local’s executive board in 1994 and appointed to be training coordinator in 1996. In 2002, after serving as a business representative for two years, he became Local 19’s president and business manager.

Sellers was elected to international leadership as 11th general vice president in August 2009. The SMART General Executive Council elected him to serve as the union’s general secretary-treasurer (GST) in July 2011, and he was unanimously re-elected as GST by delegates to the first SMART General Convention in August 2014. Sellers became SMART’s general president on May 1, 2015, when his friend and mentor Joe Nigro needed to retire. He was re-elected on August 14, 2019 to continue his term as the second general president in the union’s history.

As SMART general secretary-treasurer and general president, Sellers developed and led special campaigns to increase outreach and awareness for construction, production and transportation industry members, union industry officials and policy makers on key issues including pensions, healthcare and apprenticeships. He implemented enhancements to the union’s technological infrastructure, professional skills training and training curricula, and he pioneered various union campaigns designed to increase recruitment, retention and diversity within SMART.

Sellers oversaw the launch of the BE4ALL Committee to enhance inclusiveness in the sheet metal industry; the I Got Your Back campaign to promote solidarity between members across all backgrounds; the expansion of the role women play in the unionized sheet metal industry and the rapid modernization of the union’s information and communications programs. He also spearheaded new investments in membership mobilization, with an eye towards positioning the organization to meet the long-term needs of members and those looking to form a union in the decades ahead.

As a testament to Sellers’ steady leadership, the Sheet Metal Workers’ National Pension Fund was officially certified in the Green Zone in 2022 after decades of recovery. His tireless legislative advocacy helped SMART establish a strong relationship with Congress and the Biden administration, and his constant championing of workers’ issues helped influence the passage of groundbreaking laws like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and more.

“We are SMART: sheet metal, air, rail and transportation workers,” Sellers remarked during an interview with SMART News announcing his retirement. “And we’re going to do the things together that are important to our union, no matter what sector you come from. Transportation. Sheet metal. Manufacturing. Any one of those sectors, we’re going to be there for each other.”

Incoming General President Michael Coleman has been a SMART member since 1985, when he began his career at Local 65 — now Local 33 (northern Ohio). Like his predecessor, Coleman served at every level of the union, starting as a rank-and-file tradesperson before becoming a member of his local union’s executive board and a business representative after that. He was then elected president and business manager of Local 33 before becoming ninth general vice president in 2019; he quickly transitioned to SMART director of business and management relations, then to his most recent post as assistant to the general president. He will assume the position of SMART general president on June 1, 2023.

“General President Joseph Sellers will be remembered as one of the all-time greats of this organization,” Coleman noted. “He cemented our groundbreaking merger and navigated the multitude of challenges that faced this union in the past decade.”

He continued: “General President Sellers has really prepared us for this moment that we’re about to embark on, with all these megaprojects and all these growth opportunities. I’m looking forward to that challenge; to seeing his vision through, making sure that we’re still prepared and taking advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

Coleman concluded by reminding members that this is their union.

“Whether it be through the work we put in to get allies elected or through the unfortunate circumstances that put freight rail safety front and center on the national agenda, now is our time to act,” he declared. “I am prepared to move this organization forward, and I will work as hard as I can to advance the interests of all SMART members.” 

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.

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.

General President Joseph Sellers Jr. recently met with SMART TD general chairpersons at the SMART TD Western General Chairperson’s Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Click here to watch a video of GP Sellers addressing the issues SMART TD members face.