On February 13, 2024, Tom Suozzi won a special election to represent New York’s Third Congressional District following former Representative George Santos’ expulsion from the House of Representatives. Suozzi’s victory resulted in no small part from the mobilization and voting efforts of SMART members, who turned out in force to flip the seat from antiunion to pro-worker.

“This sends a message to all: When you bring all unions together, we all win,” Local 28 (New York City and Long Island) wrote on Twitter.

In the weeks leading up to election day, sheet metal and transportation workers joined their union brothers and sisters across the New York labor movement for a massive member-to-member outreach campaign. All told, New York City union members made more than 50,000 calls and knocked on almost 10,000 doors in Queens alone.

“I was honored to endorse Tom Suozzi for Congress in the Third Congressional District on behalf of SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 28,” said Eric Meslin, Local 28 president and business manager. “As the president and business manager of our union, I place great importance on addressing the concerns that matter to our members. These concerns include improving wages and benefits, apprenticeship programs that provide long-term career opportunities, implementing stricter safety regulations and advocating for fair prevailing wages that have been overlooked for far too long.

SMART members get out the vote for Tom Suozzi.

“Tom Suozzi aligns with our vision and has demonstrated a consistent dedication to fighting for working-class families,” Meslin added. “He understands the challenges faced by our members in Long Island and New York City and has actively supported middle-class jobs that keep pace with the rising cost of living in our region. We firmly believe that Tom Suozzi will champion the needs and interests of our union members, and greatly benefit our community.”

Suozzi had previously served in the same seat before deciding not to run for reelection in 2022 — and during his years representing Queens and Long Island, he consistently consulted SMART-TD and Alt. Vice President/General Chairperson from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Anthony Simon on issues that would affect TD members.

“Some legislators have a relationship with labor unions where they feel obligated to reach out to us to explain their vote before or after it is cast. Suozzi treats General Chairperson Simon and our members as valued assets who contribute to him forming his opinion rather than as a voting bloc he needs to pacify or make sure is kept happy,” SMART-TD’s Legislative Department wrote in an article ahead of election day. “Suozzi is a valued partner in our union’s effort to promote safety in transportation, as well as invest in the value we bring to our neighborhoods and the country.”

For this episode of the Talking SMART podcast, we sat down with SMART Local 28 Business Agent Marvin Tavarez to discuss his journey going from working non-union to being organized into SMART. He breaks down some of the myths about organizing into our union versus taking a more traditional full apprenticeship route.

“Some people are like ‘Oh, that’s the backdoor, that’s the backdoor,’ ” says Tavarez. “But at the end of the day, it all comes down to educating the membership. You know, if you’re not organizing members in, you’re gonna be working against them and not with them.”

“If you’re not organizing members in, you’re gonna be working against them and not with them.”

Tavarez also discussed his efforts to help build a rank-and-file building trades movement, including organizing rallies attended by thousands in New York City.

“As soon as I got into the union,” says Tavarez, “I felt like I needed to give back, someway, somehow. I was getting so much from the union… what can I do to contribute? So, I started a rank-and-file movement on Facebook. Started with like five members. Within a year, year and a half, it grew to over 10,000 members on social media.”

At the end of this episode, in his last open mic segment before he retired at the end of May 2023, former SMART General President Joseph Sellers discusses the road ahead for SMART, as we work to train a new generation of members and staff up scores of large “megaprojects” across the United States and Canada.

Return to the Talking SMART index page.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people’s voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.


The SMART TD annual Regional Meeting in San Antonio is coming up soon – reserve your spot now! Click here to reserve online and for additional information.

Educate—Organize—Mobilize! This is the theme for SMART Transportation Division’s upcoming regional meetings, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, on June 12-14 and New York City, New York, on July 10-12.

This theme was selected in order to continue our renewed emphasis on education and training and also to build awareness of the many tools that are offered to take that training to the next level.

Educate – This year’s workshops will build on the positive feedback received from last year’s meetings, offering improved course studies for members and officers. The courses are offered with multiple tracks to enhance the skills of every member, including full schedules designed for legislative matters, local officer training, bus issues and treasurer workshops.

Reinstating a well-received initiative, this year the meetings will again offer a certification program for those who wish to participate. Members may record attendance by scanning their badge at the conclusion of each workshop. Those who participate at the higher levels will receive a certificate and a lapel pin in recognition of their achievement.

Organize – The meetings this year will offer guidance on strategies and techniques to implement the lessons learned during the workshops. Whether it be organizing to improve the conduct of a local meeting or forming a group to get out the vote come election time, the goal is to assist all attendees in developing the skills necessary to apply at the local level and incorporate the lessons learned during the meetings.

Mobilize!  This is a critical part of this year’s theme. Now, more than ever before, we are in a political environment that is unfriendly to organized labor.  There are efforts underway at the local, state and federal levels to dismantle many of the protections and benefits that labor has earned during the 150-year history of the American labor movement.

From taxing workers on their employer-provided health care, to implementing right-to-work at the national level, many people not favorable to organized labor view this time as a window of opportunity to advance their anti-labor initiatives.

The threats are real and it will take an educated, organized and mobilized strategy by all of labor to counteract the efforts of those who are attempting to turn back the clock.

Accordingly, this year’s regional meetings will have a special focus on mobilization at the local level. From lobbying first responders in support of our two-person crew bills, to speaking out in Washington through utilization of the SMART TD Legislative Action Center, success in this environment will depend on an informed and mobilized membership.

We ask all members to sign up for SMART Action Alerts, download the SMART TD free app (search SMART-TD in app store) and utilize the Legislative Action Center on the SMART TD website.

All members need to be informed and prepared to offer support and assistance when called upon. It is through our collective efforts that we will be able to withstand attacks on the benefits, wages, retirement, regulations and transit funding that provide a safe working environment and a good living for our members and their families.

I look forward to seeing you at the regional meetings in San Antonio and New York!

In Solidarity,

John Previsich
SMART Transportation Division

SMART Transportation Division has opened registration for the San Antonio and New York City Regional Meetings.
Pre-registration cost for both meetings is $150 per person, per meeting; children 11 and under are free. Persons who do not pre-register, but choose to register after the deadline or on-site will be charged an additional $50 per attendee. The deadline to be considered pre-registered for the San Antonio meeting is Wednesday, May 10. The deadline to be considered pre-registered for the New York City meeting is Tuesday, June 6.
Workshops are free to attend and begin on Monday and end on Wednesday at approximately 12:30 p.m. at each meeting. Members who do not wish to attend meals, tours or golf, do not need to register.
As per usual, spousal/guest tours are $35 per tour, per registered guest; or, $75 per tour per unregistered guest. Tours will take place Sunday, June 11 and Monday, June 12 at the San Antonio Regional Meeting; and, Sunday, July 9 and Monday, July 10 at the New York City Regional Meeting. Tour details will be announced at a later date. Space on the tours is limited; reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Sunday June 11th San Antonio Regional Meeting golf tournament scheduled for Brackenridge Park Golf Course has been cancelled.  Anyone registered for this golf tournament will receive a full refund. Please call SMART TD headquarters at 216-228-9400 to obtain a refund.
Please note that hotel reservations are separate and should be made directly with the respective hotel. SMART TD recommends that hotel reservations be made at this time if you have not already done so.

Registration for San Antonio

The San Antonio Regional Meeting will take place June 12-14 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio Hotel. Registration and payment must be received at SMART TD headquarters by May 10 for all attendees to be considered pre-registered.
Click here to register online.
Click here to fill-out and print the mail-in form.
Click here for more details about the San Antonio meeting.

Registration for New York City

The New York City Regional Meeting will take place July 10-12 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. Registration and payment must be received at SMART TD headquarters by June 6 for all attendees to be considered pre-registered.
Click here to register online.
Click here to fill-out and print the mail-in form.
Click here for more details about the New York City meeting.