Local 464 (Ponca City, Okla.) member RJ Warren retired on April 28, 2023, bringing an end to 46 years of service as a tool and die maker at Air System Components/JCI.

“He has been with this production plant through many owners and a loyal union member since February, 1977,” explained Local 464 Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer Mechelle McNew.

McNew presented Warren with a retirement watch on his last day of work. Congratulations, brother!

Do you have dreams of starting your own service business? Or do you have an existing sheet metal business that you’d like to add a service department to? If so, the International Training Institute (ITI) Service Academy is for you.

The ITI launched its new Service Academy in April, aimed at supporting union sheet metal workers who want to become service contractors signatory to SMART, as well as existing signatory contractors looking to add a service arm to their business. The academy features a series of courses designed to teach SMART members the fundamentals of business ownership and help them decide whether or not to start a business.

Beginning with the ITI Business Development course, participants are introduced to the tools they need to plan for successful business ownership, including choosing a business name, hiring and retaining the right people, bidding accurately, keeping track of cash flow and more. The Business Development course also gives participants a jump-start on writing a comprehensive business plan and examines strategies for marketing and financing a new business in today’s construction and service markets.

Once they have completed Business Development, participants can choose from various courses in the Service Academy’s pathway, addressing the needs of members at all stages in their careers.

For example, the Basic Service Technician Training course is designed for those who have gained knowledge and insight into the Business Development and Service Manager courses but need more hands-on experience working with the tools of the trade. Another course, the Service Specialty Manager Training, is for those who want to open a dedicated service department at an existing signatory contractor. Participants learn the ins and outs of dispatch, cost of overhead, maintenance contracts, marketing and more.

The Service Academy provides the most robust and well-rounded approach to the service side of the industry and includes more than just HVACR. With multiple course selections available, the academy is centered on participants’ needs and will address a broader perspective of service-based scopes of work, including – but not limited to – HVAC Fire Life Safety, TAB, BIM and Ventilation Verification for Indoor Air Quality. Most of the courses are offered either entirely online or in a hybrid learning environment, and independent study expectations are kept manageable for participants who are still working full time in the field.

Visit the Service Academy website to learn more!

The newly certified ICB/TABB contractors listed below recently entered the ranks of elite professionals who have proven they are at the top of their craft, meet the rigorous requirements for ICB/TABB certification and employ certified, highly skilled technicians and supervisors who continue to improve their skills with continuing education units and who invest their knowledge in the future. These TABB, fire and smoke damper, and commissioning contractors perform quality work for customers of the HVAC sheet metal industry while providing a solid company bottom line.

Healthy, forward-thinking companies like these are the lifeblood of our profession – and NEMIC and its certifying bodies, ICB/TABB, are here to help contractors help customers by identifying emerging technology, certifications, legislation, HVAC Fire Life Safety, indoor air quality, marketing and branding, field staff support and much more.

Please join us in congratulating the following companies for demonstrating the highest level of excellence, commitment and dedication to our industry:

CertificationCertification DateCompanyCompany CityLocal Union
TABB Contractor3/30/2022Pan-Pacific MechanicalFremont, CA104
TABB Contractor3/8/2022Bledsoe Environmental, LLCIndianapolis, IN20
TABB Contractor, Commissioning3/8/2022Built Environmental Systems TestingCashion, OK124
TABB Contractor3/3/2022Total MechanicalPewaukee, WI18
TABB Contractor2/7/2022T&B ServiceEau Claire, WI18
TABB Contractor2/7/2022Big City BalancingAstoria, NY28
Fire & Smoke Damper Contractor3/8/2022AMS Mechanical Systems, Inc.Woodridge, IL265
Fire & Smoke Damper Contractor3/8/2022Sunset Air, Inc.Lacey, WA66
Fire & Smoke Damper Contractor2/14/2022Cahill Sketching and InspectingSomerdale, NJ19

Click here for more information on becoming an ICB/TABB Certified Contractor.

In late March, SMART mem­bers joined union brothers and sisters from across the Okla­homa labor movement for a good cause. Together with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Major League Fishing (MLF) Fisher­ies Management Division (FMD), local union members teamed up at REDCREST — MLF’s Bass Pro Tour championship — to build 120 artificial fish habitats. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conserva­tion, MLF co-founder and Bass Fishing Hall of Fame inductee Gary Klein, FMD members and MossBack Fish Habitat deployed some of the structures into Lake Bixhoma shortly after to improve the quality of life for numerous fish species.

“Much of the natural fish habitat once found in many of our reservoirs has been buried by siltation or slowly degraded over time as it decom­poses,” said Steven Bardin, a fisheries biologist with MLF-FMD. “This habitat loss must be addressed if we plan to continue to support healthy fish populations. That’s why a project like the Ferguson Habitat build and partnerships with Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, MossBack Fish Habitat, the KVD Foundation and Berkley Labs are so important to MLF Fisheries Management Division.”

In projects like the one at REDCREST, community engage­ment is a concrete aim — and that aim was certainly achieved in Oklahoma, in no small part because of the enthusiasm and skill set of union members who took part

Habitat restoration projects like the one at REDCREST target fisheries near MLF Bass Pro Tour stage locations and — using science-based methods, a community-driven approach and materials preferred by local agencies — help to reestablish natural areas of local communi­ties. The event at REDCREST saw 41 union volunteers representing Sheet Metal Workers Local 270, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Transportation Workers Local 514, Roofers Local 143, Electrical Workers Local 584 and National Letter Carriers Local 1358 donate 530 hours — a $28,090 value — to build the habitats using tools donated by Milwaukee Tool and materials provided by Ferguson and MossBack Fish.

“The Oklahoma AFL-CIO has partnered with the USA on multiple projects in Oklahoma, and the communities are always grateful for the work we do. During the expo, many attendees stopped by the booth to ask questions about the habitat builds and the work the USA does,” said Jimmy C. Curry, Oklahoma AFL-CIO president, who organized volunteers for the project. “I’ve personally done work with our unions and different charities for over 30 years, and the projects we have done with the USA have been my most memorable. Seeing the work the USA does has made me a Union Sportsman for life.”

MLF and the USA signed an agreement in July 2021 to pursue angler recruitment, retention and reactivation via each entity’s staff and respective pools of member volunteers in order to put together local and state fishing events, MLF fishing events and USA habitat conservation projects.

“Through our Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, the USA reaches into local communi­ties to create and improve access and opportunities in the outdoors,” said Forrest Parker, USA director of conservation and communications. “Combining the USA’s workforce of union volunteers with the resources and influence of Major League Fishing through projects like this propel both of our organizations’ efforts to pass on the fishing heritage to a whole new level.”

In projects like the one at REDCREST, community engage­ment is a concrete aim — and that aim was certainly achieved in Oklahoma, in no small part because of the enthusiasm and skill set of union members who took part.

“An added benefit of bringing together skilled union volunteers to complete a conservation project in the middle of an event attended by tens of thousands of bass fans was the educational component,” said Sam Phipps, USA conserva­tion programs manager. “There were hourly demonstrations and printed instructions avail­able, so expo attendees can now build habitats on their own to benefit additional water bodies and fisheries.”

Today, U.S. Representatives Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) led 101 of their colleagues in introducing legislation intended to punish corporate union busting and make it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain. Essentially, the bill would take American taxpayer subsidies away from any corporate activity intended to discourage workers from exercising their legally protected right to form a union.

“Our union has a long history of helping workers form a union, and we know all too well the lengths corporations will go to try to prevent workers from having a voice at work,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “It’s time to end the ability of corporations to deduct union busting activity from taxes — a practice that allows corporations to get off scot-free with union-busting activity. We greatly appreciate Congressman Norcross, Congresswoman Chu and their colleagues for their leadership on this legislation and stand ready to advocate with them for its passage.”

According to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, it is the official policy of the United States government to encourage collective bargaining and protect workers’ freedom of association. In practice, however, corporations often engage in anti-union activity without punishment. As workers around the country continue to organize their workplaces at historic levels, employers are spending an estimated $340 million per year on union-busting campaigns. These expenses are currently tax deductible – and frequently written off as business expenses. (Even though, because of former President Trump’s 2017 tax package, workers are not even able to deduct their union dues or the cost of work tools from their taxes, as they had been able to do in the past.)

Common anti-worker interventions – currently tax deductible – include  “captive audience meetings,” where employers hold mandatory meetings during work hours and spread misinformation intended to discourage unionization; hiring expensive “union avoidance” firms to lead union-busting campaigns; threatening to withhold benefits from pro-union workers; firing pro-union workers; and closing workplaces that appear to be pro-union or that have voted to unionize.

Rep. Norcross and Rep. Chu’s No Tax Break for Union Busting Act would curtail all such practices, ending taxpayer payment for anti-union corporate practice by classifying corporate interference in union campaigns as political speech under the tax code – thereby revoking its tax deductibility. Additionally, the legislation would require corporations to report anti-worker interventions to the IRS, ensuring these corporations pay their fair share of taxes and do not receive undeserved tax deductions.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for corporations engaged in anti-worker activity,” Congressman Norcross said. “We need to level the playing field for workers and end handouts for union-busting campaigns. It’s not fair that workers pay taxes on their hard-earned paychecks while their bosses save money crushing worker organizing. Why does our tax code favor employers at the expense of the American worker? It’s time to bring fairness to the tax code and end tax breaks for union busting.”

“The right to organize is not just protected by law, it is the official policy of the U.S. government to encourage workers to exercise this right,” added Congresswoman Chu. “However, our tax code provides companies lucrative tax breaks for the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend yearly to upend pro-union action and organizing. The No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act would not only end taxpayer subsidies for these anti-union efforts, but would give workers the fair shot they deserve to form a union.”

On June 9, 2022, 3M Fall Protection announced a stop use/recall of specific 3M™ DBI-SALA® ShockWave™2 Arc Flash Shock Absorbing Lanyards. 3M determined that, for a limited number of devices, a potential manufacturing issue could result in the lanyard not performing properly in the event of a fall, which could result in severe injury or death. There have been no reports of injuries, accidents or complaints associated with this issue.

At this time, users/owners of affected lanyards can choose to receive either a free new replacement unit (when available) or a cash option. Visit the recall website to read the detailed recall notice, view a list of affected part numbers and file a claim for any affected lanyards you own.

In the last several years, an increase in HVAC, construction, ventilation verification and other work has led to a growth in continent-wide demand for the skills and expertise provided by SMART members. As the need for sheet metal workers has intensified, so too has the drive to recruit more women into the trade, and the 21st-century workforce looks more diverse than ever before. With this opportunity comes a similar sense of responsibility: the greater and more diverse our union and industry grow, the harder we must work to safeguard the well-being of every member of our union.

Health and safety concerns in construction and the trades affect both women and men, but some problems can have a greater impact on women. Interviews and focus groups of women construction workers conducted by Chicago Women in Trades and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified several recurring issues. As in other male-dominated fields, women in construction have reported facing a hostile workplace, sexual harassment, isolation and job insecurity. These stresses can add to the pressure already created by tight deadlines and complicated work.

Physical challenges and job site dynamics unique to women add to this disparity. Women are between two and five times more likely than men to experience upper body sprains and strains at work. Excessive lifting and repetitive motions are all known risk factors for back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, regardless of gender — and it’s important to remember that many things on a job site, from tools to protective equipment to portable toilets, have historically been designed for men’s bodies.

As we step into a bright future, it’s up to all of us, men and women, to help one another survive and thrive in the sheet metal industry. Among other things, that means:

  • Making sure all workers have access to tools and personal protective equipment at a jobsite, including respirators, fall protection harnesses, gloves and safety goggles that fit properly and comfortably.
  • Providing portable bathroom facilities on job sites that are safe and hygienic for any worker to use.

For guidance on navigating stress and work culture as a woman in the sheet metal industry, view the SMART Sister Tips from women working in locals all over the country, a series that kicked off Women in Construction Week earlier this spring.  

As always, the SMOHIT Helpline, 877-884-6227, is available 24/7, with a trained counselor ready to take your call if you are experiencing a crisis.

In this Memorial Day video message from SMART General President Sellers, we remember those Americans who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and democracy, along with Canadian heroes who are recognized each year on July 1. May God bless their memories, their families who share the burdens of their sacrifices and every active and veteran member of our armed services.

Victoria Day is a day that we not only spend with our loved ones, but also honour the birthday of Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation.

While last year’s celebrations were muted due to the pandemic, things have changed considerably, and we are now approaching a new sense of normalcy.

It is also a time to reflect on our achievements, such as the Skilled Trades Workforce Mobility Tax deduction. We still have much work to do to further the progress we have made. But on this special day, let’s celebrate by safely spending some well-deserved time with our friends and loved ones.

During the first week of May, the SMART Department of Education held an in-person basic organizing training session in Portland, Oregon — part of the vital work the department performs in order to keep our union strong and geared towards growth. 

Participants from across the region immersed themselves in study and conducted role play exercises to prepare for circumstantial and situational topics that are important for building a basic organizing foundation for local unions. 

Topics included, but were not limited to:

  1. Organizing under the National Labor Relations Act in both construction and production settings;
  2. Basic “street law” rules for in-field activity;
  3. Initiating and perpetuating value-based representation communications with nonunion workers;
  4. Initiating and perpetuating value-based, top-down conversations with employers;
  5. Investigating and outlining basic organizing strategies; and more.

Participants were also given a presentation on the SMART indoor air quality (IAQ) initiative. Instructors broke down the complexities of the initiative’s sequences, answered questions and discussed with participants how the IAQ initiative could be utilized as a tool for organizing, growing market share and increasing density within their local unions. 

In addition to in-person sessions, participants had the opportunity to engage in the training via remote conferencing with both SMART Director of Organizing Darrell Roberts and SMART Director of National Campaigns James White, both of whom gave presentations about their departments and answered questions.