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

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 year of 2023 was an unprecedented success for our union, and all should take pride in what our organization has accomplished. Win percentages on our appeals are higher now than at any time in recent memory. We fought and won the first paid sick leave for transportation employees after going without for nearly two centuries of American railroading. Our brothers and sisters on many bus and transit properties are earning better wages, benefits and time off through hard-fought and overdue agreements nationwide.

Our voices have been heard by the general public, press and in the halls of state capitols and Washington, DC. But more importantly, they are recognizing the validity of our organization’s longstanding issues and concerns. In the future, transportation employees of all types will look back at what we accomplished in 2023 as a positive turning point, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for making this a reality.

When I was first elected, I stated that training was going to be a center focus of my administration. We changed the format to better serve our locals, and I could not be more proud of how well it has been embraced and the results it has produced. The commitment and effort that many of our local officers have demonstrated by participating in our regional training seminars is a tribute to the level of professionalism and dedication needed in SMART-TD to strengthen the foundation on which our progress and future success is built. I applaud all of those that have not only attended one of these events, but also those who have taken and applied the knowledge and skills presented for the betterment of the members we proudly represent. 

Your general committee and state board officers are engaged in the issues that affect your daily lives and are doing amazing work. They are unafraid to use their skills, knowledge, and connections to make sure our issues and concerns are heard in efforts to create real-world solutions for our members. I want to tip my hat to the effort they have all demonstrated this year. It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of our members are better today than it was in 2022. I owe a debt of gratitude to every member and officer that has assisted in making this a reality.

This union is solid, cohesive, and moving collectively in the direction of progress. All of us look to 2024 with the prospect of heightened pay, continued improvement in quality of life with additional scheduled and reliable time off and the prospect that our lives and those of our families are on the right trajectory. We are doing everything we can to make your quality of life reflect the true value of your labor.

In the coming months, the Federal Railroad Administration is scheduled to announce the results of the two-person crew hearings held in late 2022, and we look forward to hearing those results. Many of you answered the call and let your voices be heard on this pivotal issue, setting the stage for what would be a historic victory. We are looking to replicate this success as SMART-TD takes on the issue of the rising number and severity of assaults on our passenger/commuter rail and bus members. This issue directly impacts the lives of many of our members and we will not allow it to go unchecked. We must show no hesitation in leading the way on this significant issue while other, less-dynamic unions apparently remain content with the status quo.

Our members deserve more, and we will do all we can in efforts of ensuring their safety.

If 2023 has taught us anything, it is that we are the leader in U.S. transportation labor and our influence grows daily. However, all of this progress can be lost if we sit on our laurels or stop working as a collective group. It is for this reason that I personally request that you all stay invested in the fight for what’s right in 2024 as we lay it on the line to further the causes that define our careers and lives.

In closing, I wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous new year!


Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Picture of the Pa. Captiol from then-Gov. Tom Wolf from Harrisburg, Pa. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Picture of the Pa. Capitol from then-Gov. Tom Wolf from Harrisburg, Pa. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Across the country, SMART members are running for elected office — and winning. As leaders in their communities, these members are able to influence the policies that matter to their fellow union workers, and they can ensure union issues are prioritized.

There are a variety of reasons why members run. They want to serve their neighbors and communities. They want to make sure labor has a voice in our decision-making bodies, and that our priorities — such as prevailing wages, project labor agreements (PLAs), registered apprenticeship utilization, health and safety protections and other workforce standards — get the attention they deserve. They want to push back against anti-union and anti-worker rhetoric from inside our governing bodies.

“They want to make sure labor has a voice in our decision-making bodies, and that our priorities — such as prevailing wages, project labor agreements (PLAs), registered apprenticeship utilization, health and safety protections and other workforce standards — get the attention they deserve.”

“The more of our members that hold public office, the better we are as an organization,” said SMART Local 33 (northern Ohio) Business Representative and Toledo City Councilman Matt Cherry. “Our local has had some very big wins because of this position, including countless PLAs and licensing requirements.”

Anyone can run for elected office. Read through the tips below to learn how you can start the process:

Get involved locally:

Get active in your community. For example, SMART members currently in office have served on boards, committees and task forces in order to get to know their communities and other elected leaders before running for elected office.

Consult with your union:

Talking to local union leadership is the first thing every SMART member currently holding office has done.

Attend trainings:

Attend the AFL-CIO’s Path to Power training. This training is designed to teach union members and local activists how to run for public office and build power that will positively influence our communities.

Seek endorsements:

Make sure you get the endorsement of SMART. After talking to your local, contact your AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, state federation and state building trades council. These are bodies that can help you seek out other local union endorsements as well as endorsements from other community stakeholders.

Build a campaign budget:

SMART members currently holding office have raised funds from individuals, unions and/or through the local political party. Having the support of the labor community will be key to helping you raise money to support your campaign.

Aside from elected positions, there are many opportunities to get involved in local politics. All cities and counties have committees, boards and commissions that constituents can join. Serving in this capacity is an important way to help advance SMART’s priorities and build our political power.

“If you’re thinking of running, do it,” said East Haven, Conn. Town Councilwoman and SMART Local 40 member Kimberly Glassman. “By and large, most politicians have no idea the contributions that the unionized construction industry makes. They don’t know why prevailing wage laws are so important. They don’t know what a PLA is. But our opposition is well-funded and motivated to decimate our industry. Just being in the room where conversations about municipal or state projects are had is a huge win. It’s moving the dial for all of us. The more of us that hold elected office, the better.”

SMART members in New Jersey at a Passaic Central Labor Council labor walk.
SMART members in New Jersey at a Passaic Central Labor Council labor walk.

This election cycle, SMART members across sheet metal and the Transportation Division flexed their muscles at the ballot box, helping elect union-friendly candidates across the United States. That includes SMART members who ran for office themselves, pledging to pursue policy that supports working families.

In New Jersey, the SMART New Jersey State Council endorsed a bipartisan group of pro-labor candidates that won big. Johnnie Whittington of Local 27 (southern New Jersey) won his election to the East Windsor Township Council, while Glen Kocsis — also from Local 27 — won re-election to the Neptune City Council: putting the voice of SMART workers in powerful positions to benefit their union brothers and sisters.

“So far this election cycle, 82% of our labor candidates have won their elections,” said Joseph Demark, Jr., president of the New Jersey State Council for Sheet Metal Workers, president and business manager of Local 25 (northern New Jersey) and executive board member of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “Together, we made the difference and won!”

In Kentucky, SMART members endorsed and helped re-elect Andy Beshear as governor. His victory is a big win for workers — during his first term, he made Kentucky the battery manufacturing capital of America, and he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with union members from the picket line to the governor’s office. Thanks in no small part to Beshear’s leadership, SMART members are seeing an extraordinary amount of work in the Bluegrass State — and our union is growing as a result.

Up and down the ballot, in races across the country, SMART members fueled a score of impressive victories. Warren Faust, SMART International representative and former business manager of Local 44 (northeastern Pennsylvania), won re-election to the Wilkes-Barre School Board. And in Virginia, workers marched to the ballot box to help pro-union candidates take the state House and Senate, putting advocates for working families in control of policymaking.

Ultimately, 2023 reiterated the importance of the union vote. Election Day reminds all legislators: When you stand with union members, union members stand with you.

“From door-knocking, to phone-banking, to peer-to-peer text messaging, we showed the power of our vote,” said SMART-TD Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs. “When we stand together as one, there is NOTHING that can stop us in our tracks.”

For father-daughter sheet metal workers Anthony Smith and Amber Jones, joining SMART Local 4 (Memphis, Tennessee) and working for signatory contractor Ventcon has demonstrated the difference between a nonunion gig and a union career.

“Before I joined the union, I didn’t think I’d ever really be able to retire — I’ve always bartended, served, didn’t have anything going into retirement,” said Jones, a first-year apprentice. “Here with the local, I’m able to retire one day. I’m actually able to pay my bills, financially afford to feed my kids and, you know, moving up in life.”

“I’ve been in the trade off and on for about 30 years,” added Smith, a Marine Corps veteran and a member of Local 4 since August 2023. “I was always told that being unionized was something I would not want to consider, but everything that I’d heard about Local 4 — and of course, experiencing it now — I wish I would’ve [joined] a long time ago. … With the way the local treats you, the way everybody here treats you, it just gives you a better opportunity to move forward.”

Both Smith and Jones are currently at work fabricating metal for Ford’s massive Blue Oval City electric vehicle plant in Stanton, Tennessee. For the country at-large, their jobs are helping to build our sustainable economic and clean energy future. For the two Local 4 sheet metal workers, it’s an extraordinary amount of fabrication work.

“It’s great work. It’s not easy work, but it’s good, honest work — you make good pay,” Smith said.

“[Ford Blue Oval City] is needing a ton of metal, which we are constantly pushing out — truck loads a day,” Jones explained. “I love the people that I work with; I enjoy coming to work every day.”

The work is one thing, but the benefits of union membership go beyond just material gains. For Jones, the union apprenticeship program has helped nurture a love of learning in a trade that has endless possibilities.

“I like to stay busy; I like to learn new things, being able to understand how things work,” she said. “I go to school every Monday and Tuesday night. It’s very welcoming; they’ve been there for me, helped guide me, they’re teaching me everything that I need to know.”

Smith, meanwhile, said the sense of camaraderie parallels what he had in the Marines.

“Everybody helps each other, you know. We don’t just finish a job that we’re on and stand around, and watch everybody else maybe struggle,” he said. “Everybody pulls together to get the job done. It’s a great team that works out here, and it’s probably the best atmosphere I’ve been in in a very, very long time.”

The SMART Transportation Division Colorado State Legislative Board announced that a railroad safety bill it supports received a key committee endorsement on October 3 and looks likely to be considered in the state Legislature’s 2024 session.

By a 14–6 vote, the state’s Joint Transportation Legislation Review Committee approved of the measure, which limits train lengths to 8,500 feet and sets placement of trackside detectors to mirror what is proposed in the Railway Safety Act introduced after the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster in February 2023. The legislation also would prohibit carriers from blocking rail crossings for longer than 10 minutes.

According to Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith, the Ohio derailment was the impetus for some of the legislators to take a hard look at rail safety — and a couple of other incidents closer to home have kept the attention on the railroad.

“A military train from Fort Carson derailed right across from the El Paso County Jail, in Colorado Springs,” Smith said. “So that drew a lot of media attention, a lot of media spotlight.”

Incidents such as the Colorado Springs derailment and a second, more recent incident in Pueblo, Colorado, combined with members’ active outreach, made the commonsense efforts advocated by SMART-TD hard to ignore — even for people who had previously aligned with the carriers.

Smith said that state Rep. Ty Winter had adamantly refused to support rail safety legislation in the 2023 session and was a “no” for several months leading up to the vote in early October, but changed his mind in a statement to the review committee.

“I firmly believe the pressure that Rep. Winter received from the railroad workers that live and work in the 47th House District caused a significant change to his previous stance,” Smith said. “We will thank Rep. Winter for his support and continue to ensure that he supports rail safety legislation. The lobbyists of both railroads were visibly shocked by Winter’s statement and vote.”

A great deal of work on the legislation has been done, but there’s more ahead.

“We still have many steps to go before it gets to the governor’s desk for signature,” Smith noted.

But the committee endorsement with bipartisan support and 14 cosponsors — even before introduction before the full Legislature in 2024 — give it a leg up over legislation starting from scratch.

Smith also said that the legislation remains subject to amendment, especially at the encouragement of the railroad carriers, to soften the protections the bill advocates.

“I anticipate that happening,” he cautioned.

Smith and the Colorado State Legislative Board have already created a coalition of other unions, public safety and environmental groups to help raise awareness in the Legislature for a successful outcome that mirrors the winning two-person crew effort in the state in 2019.

“We will continue to educate legislators on railroad safety and lobby them to support the bill for the 2024 session,” Smith concluded.

SMART Assistant to the General President Donna Silverman left her post at SMART effective December 31, 2023. During her tenure, Silverman worked indefatigably to advance the interests of SMART members, particularly those in underrepresented communities — helping position our union for generations to come.

Silverman began her time at SMART in 2017 as house counsel, transitioning to her role as assistant to the general president in 2020. Prior to joining SMART, she worked as an in-house assistant legal counsel for the International Association of Fire Fighters and worked for a Washington, DC, law firm, where she represented union members and employees and worked on cases related to employment discrimination, duty of fair representation, wage and hour, and arbitrations.

Silverman pioneered a variety of initiatives during her time at SMART that helped our union make enormous strides in recruitment, retention, inclusion and beyond, setting the groundwork for SMART to grow and meet this moment of opportunity. She helped lead the implementation of the I Got Your Back Campaign, the Belonging and Excellence for All (BE4ALL) initiative and the formation of the SMART International Women’s Committee, and she drafted amendments to the SMART Constitution that helped make our union more welcoming to all members.

SMART General President Michael Coleman paid tribute to Silverman during the 2023 Tradeswomen Build Nations conference, saying she has “moved mountains” at SMART.

“Donna, you’re one of my best friends, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you — thank you for being you.”

In December, SMART-TD announced the members who will serve on the Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) Committee. This committee, which was voted on at the 2023 SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, is being chaired by Christine Ivey, a member of SMART-TD Local 1785 who works as a bus operator for the Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines.

In addition to Sister Ivey, the members of the BTAPS Committee will be the following:

Bus members

  • Russ Gaillard, Local 1582, Adirondack Transit Lines, Albany, New York
  • Sandra Pineda, Local 1563, LACMTA, El Monte, California
  • Bruce Cheatham, Local 1594, SEPTA, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
  • Pedro (Pete) Lara, Jr., Local 1563, LACMTA, El Monte, California

Transit/commuter members

  • Cole Czub, Local 898, KEOLIS, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Ernest Higgerson, Local 1525, Amtrak, Carbondale, Illinois
  • Joseph Williams, Local 800, New Jersey Transit, Newark, New Jersey

This committee will be focusing its efforts on lobbying at the state level and in Washington, DC, to promote bills that ensure the best demonstrated practices for transit worker safety and bring down the alarming rate of assaults on our brothers and sisters. BTAPS members will also be working with carriers, the Federal Transit Administration and other federal agencies to promote best practices to make our members safer on the job.

“I want to thank all our bus and transit members who volunteered to serve on this important committee. After careful consideration, we have chosen eight members that represent a geographically diverse cross section of our bus, transit and commuter service workforce,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “We are lucky to have many talented people in our union, and we look forward to the progress this BTAPS Committee will make. Under Christine Ivey’s leadership, I am sure they will make an immediate impact on the safety of our bus and transit rail members.”

The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) announced the appointment of Cassandra Kline as the director of certification for the International Certification Board (ICB), effective October 16, 2023. Kline brings a wealth of knowledge and commitment to this role, having served as NEMI director of construction technology. She also assisted with ANAB/ANSI (ANSI National Accreditation Board/American National Standards Institute) duties.

“We trust her dedication to excellence, leadership skills, and deep understanding of our organization make her the perfect candidate to lead our certification program into the future,” said NEMI Administrator Lisa Davis. “We are excited to see her bring the same level of dedication to her new role.”