Following a chance social media interaction, SMART Local 46 (Rochester, N.Y.) apprentices are helping provide the gift of mobility to hundreds of children across the world, according to — showcasing both the values and the craftsmanship of union labor.

Bellas Bumpas Limited is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization run by husband-and-wife team Marty Parzynski and Rebecca Orr that provides free, hand-crafted mobile chairs for children with physical disabilities. The charity’s mission, WNYLaborToday reports, is to not only help children gain “the mobility that has eluded them, but provide them with the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities that many children and their families take for granted.”

A crucial part of the wheelchairs, Local 46 Training Director Allen Mort told WNYLaborToday, is a metal axle that needs to be cut precisely to length, with holes drilled on either end to attach the wheels to each side of the chair. That’s where the union sheet metal apprentices entered the equation.

“[The charity] was looking for help with constructing wheelchairs and they needed metal pieces [to attach the wheels]. I called them to inquire about what they needed,” Mort — who originally saw Bellas Bumpas’ call for assistance on a neighborhood app — told WNYLaborToday.

“Their apprentices’ help takes a lot off my shoulders,” Parzynski said in the same article. “It gives me more time to work on other parts.”

“[Local 46’s apprentices] are helping disabled kids,” he continued. “Families who have a disabled kid have tears in their eyes, because they’ve never gotten anything like this. There was nowhere else to go [to get the metal axle made], and we couldn’t do anything without them. Then [Local 46] stepped in. It’s an absolute godsend.”

In addition to its donation of union labor, Local 46 helped spearhead a wave of financial assistance. Following the apprentices’ work, the Rochester Building & Construction Trades Council donated $16,000 to Bellas Bumpas, and Local 46 contributed another $1,000.

“When [the apprentices] learn that it’s so meaningful, you can see it in their faces,” Local 46 Business Manager Troy Milne explained to WNYLaborToday. “They take a bit of extra time because they know where it’s going. … They care.”

“I’m proud of them, as well as our entire membership, to give back to our community. We’re not just tin-knockers,” he added.

From September 12–14, during the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference, apprentices from nine different local unions gathered in Peterborough, Ontario, for the 50th annual Ontario Sheet Metal Workers Apprenticeship Competition. The challenge? Building copper replicas of the iconic Peterborough Lift Lock.

“It’s a great opportunity to get some new skills and meet some new people, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Local 537 (Hamilton, Ontario) apprentice Mackenzie Johnston.

Along with the conference and apprenticeship competition, SMART Army Canada was out in force: Dozens of members took to the streets for a cleanup of the Otonabee River and nearby Millennium Park, helping preserve Canada’s natural beauty and public spaces for the local community.


  • First place: Kevin Berkmortel, Local 473 (London, Ontario)
  • Second place: Jamie Weir, Local 30 (Toronto, Ontario)
  • Third place: Aaron Woolley, Local 397 (Thunder Bay, Ontario)
  • Fourth place: Jacob Wiebe, Local 235 (Windsor, Ontario)
  • Fifth place: Austin Ducedre, Local 235 (Windsor, Ontario)
  • Congeniality award: Antonio Iezzi, Local 30 (Toronto, Ontario)

SMART-TD Local 445 members dedicated a Friday to serving their community in October – the start of what Local 445 Chairperson A.J. Lewis says will be an expanded effort to volunteer in the area.

“Rocky, Mike and myself volunteered for a shift at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Joliet on October 13, 2023,” Lewis explained. “We packed 504 cans of food, which contributed to the 7,146 pounds of total food packed during the shift. This provided 5,955 meals for Joliet and surrounding communities.”

In addition to packing food, the three Local 445 members loaded cars with boxes of food to be delivered to those in need who can’t access transportation to the food bank.

“Next year, we will be posting dates when our local will be covering shifts at the Northern Illinois Food Bank,” Lewis added. “We will be extending this invite to any union brother or sister who would like to volunteer their time.”

SM Local 88 (Las Vegas, Nevada) won the first annual Southern Nevada Building Trades softball tournament. They forged a dominant run through a crowded field of 18 other teams, none of which were able to stand up to the hitting prowess and fielding only Local 88 could muster. Congratulations!

Rail rodeo participants, left to right: Josiah Lewis, Richard
Montano, Hector Rivera, Jesse Lopez, Marina Mancilla, Steven
Ramirez, Omar Vivente, Gilbert Jaurequi and Eden Vazquez.
Not pictured: Norma Marlowe.

On Saturday, November 4, SMART-TD Local 1565 members working at Los Angeles Metro participated in the Monrovia division rail rodeo, competing with other transit rail workers and showing off the skills they use to transport passengers safely and efficiently every day. In addition to the skills competition, SMART-TD members and families showed out to support their union family, and Local 1565 set up a table representing SMART to fellow transit workers and potential members.

The Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award — given each year to selected sheet metal and Transportation Division members — is a recognition of the winners’ solidarity and dedication to their union, their SMART brothers and sisters and their communities. This year’s winners — who received their awards during the SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, in August — embody the principles of selflessness and service that characterize SMART and the labor movement.

Watch interviews with each SMART Army award winner.

SMART-TD Local 1409 (Kansas City, Kansas) member and Legislative Representative Dan Bonawitz joined the SMART Transportation Division in September of 2006, when he hired on with Union Pacific. He became a legislative representative shortly after in 2009, lobbying for laws and regulations that protect his sisters and brothers and their communities. He now works as a Transportation Division international organizer.

Throughout his time as a member, Bonawitz has worked to build and bolster the Local 1409 SMART Army, strengthening the bonds between SMART members — including different TD locals in Kansas, bus members and sheet metal members — and between SMART and the community. Each year, Bonawitz organizes a Memorial Day SMART Army event, bringing fellow members to cemeteries in the area to decorate veterans’ graves with American flags.

“There’s no ‘I’ in SMART, there’s no ‘I’ in Army, there’s no ‘I’ in team,” Bonawitz said. “Here in Kansas City, we work as one big family.”

SM Local 280 (Vancouver, B.C.) Business Representative Jeff Lind was one of two sheet metal Joseph J. Nigro Award winners in 2023, a tribute to the work he has put in to create and develop the SMART Army in the Vancouver area since 2021. The first SMART Army endeavor Lind took on was the Langley Meals on Wheels project, during which members volunteered to build kitchen components such as stainless steel tables for the local Meals on Wheels. He then expanded that opportunity by seeking donations from the unionized sheet metal industry, raising approximately $60,000 worth of equipment and funds for the charity.

Lind has continued to organize Local 280 initiatives in the years since, including for events such as Steps for Life — which supports the families of workers who have suffered a workplace death or life-altering injury — and the Terry Fox Run, which raises money for cancer research. Through these projects, he focuses on building a sense of belonging in Local 280, finding opportunities for members to get together and support their communities.

“Full disclosure — it is an honor to accept this award, but really this is all about the membership of Local 280,” Lind said.

The final Joseph J. Nigro award winner was longtime SM Local 105 (Los Angeles, Calif.) member Manuel Zapata. He has been a union sheet metal worker since 1988, serving as a chief negotiation steward until 2013, as well as an all-trades project manager, supervisor and operations craft manager, managing 90 employees. He was also an executive board member Dan Bonawitz at the local for one term, and he served for 17 years as a part-time JATC instructor.

Zapata started Autism Spectrum Athletics in 2012, with the simple goal of bringing children on the spectrum together to play sports, have fun and socialize in a safe space. When he started, the program had 30 kids. Eleven years later, in May of 2023, he signed up 147 kids to play baseball – demonstrating the outsized impact that his efforts, with help from his Local 105 sisters and brothers, are having on his community.

“When I started on this venture many years ago, it was with one simple goal – a goal we sheet metal workers always have, and that’s solve problems. To provide a program and a place for children on the spectrum of autism where they can play sports without fear, without judgement, where most of all, they can have fun,” Zapata said. “I’m truly humbled to be given this award.”

Young people from around Kentucky braved rainstorms to spend several hours honing their fishing skills on Saturday, May 20, during three separate Take Kids Fishing Day events hosted by SMART Local 110 (Louisville, Ky.), the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services.

While the weather may have dampened the venues — Jacobson Park in Lexington, Waverly Park in Louisville and Bob Noble Park in Paducah — it didn’t lessen the kids’ spirit or excitement, according to event organizer and Local 110 Business Manager Mark Adams.

“Every child received a free rod-and-reel from the USA and got the chance to catch a few fish,” he said. “Everyone had a fantastic time, despite the weather.”

In all, 75 children participated in the three events, learning how to bait hooks, cast a line and land catfish, bluegills and trout under the mentorship of Local 110 members who volunteered their time to coach the budding anglers. In Lexington, members of the Cadentown Mission Baptist Men’s Group joined union volunteers in helping kids catch fish.

From the planning stage through the close of each event, union members donated 110 hours of their time to this community outreach program.

“This is the third year we’ve held the Take Kids Fishing Day events,” Adams noted. “Our local members are sportsmen and women, and they know what they’re doing. Our focus is on helping each kid catch fish, especially if it is their first time holding a fishing rod.”

Recruiting new people into the sport of fishing, and hopefully igniting an interest in preserving and conserving the country’s valuable natural resources, is only part of the goal in hosting events like these for the community, Adams added.

“They also help strengthen the bond between union workers and the people in their neighborhoods,” he explained. “They help us show the community what the union is all about, supporting our neighbors while providing secure employment opportunities for our members. I guarantee SMART 110 will be holding this event for a long time to come.”

“Too many children seldom get the opportunity to go fishing, or participate in any type of outdoor recreation,” said Cody Campbell, USA conservation coordinator. “The Take Kids Fishing Days we and volunteers from union locals in various states host every year offer hundreds of kids that chance, at least for a day. The mentoring that union volunteers provide will hopefully give many of them the confidence to pursue fishing as a fun, life-long pastime.”

The SMART Local 110 events were part of a series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events, organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program with support from USA national partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Union Plus and Humana, as well as founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.

From May 15–19, 2023, the SMART Recruitment and Retention Council — along with the Roofing and Building Enclosure and Production and Sign Councils — met in Memphis, Tennessee, where SMART leaders from across the United States and Canada reviewed and planned out activities for the year and beyond.

With the continent-wide need for workers at a generational high, now is the time for locals to recruit new members and apprentices for upcoming megaprojects in both nations. Lauren Sugarman and Lark Jackson from Chicago Women in the Trades discussed recruitment strategies to build a diverse pool of potential members to strengthen the union. Tiffany Finck-Haynes from the SMART Government Affairs Department gave an overview of federal funding available to local JATCs to assist with recruitment and retention of members from across all ethnic and gender backgrounds.

Darrell Roberts, SMART’s assistant to the general president, and Josh Garner from the SMART International Organizing Department led a presentation on recruitment tactics, while SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson led a discussion on recruitment and retention and its unique role in the industries the SMART Transportation Division represents. He was joined by John Pitts (organizer from SMART-TD Local 608), James Sandoval (general chairperson for SMART-TD Local 0023) and Chad Yokoyama (SMART-TD Local 1687).

Michael Childers speaks to SMART councilmembers.

Attendees at the Roofing and Building Enclosure Council meeting were also updated on cutting-edge tools and training for new panel systems. These will give SMART architectural sheet metal workers and roofers a leg up over the nonunion competition as SMART continues to expand market share and collective bargaining power for members.

The Production and Sign Council heard from Michael Childers, the department co-chair of the School for Workers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Childers spoke about the collaboration between the labor movement and civil rights movements, and how that solidarity translates to work being done today as SMART looks to spread our message of opportunity to people of all races and backgrounds. Local 464 (Ponca City, Okla.) Business Manager Mechelle McNew, a longtime leader on the council and founding member of the SMART Women’s Committee, was also honored at the close of the council meetings for her contributions to the organization as one of the first woman leaders in the SMART sheet metal industry.

Former SMART General President Joseph Sellers and General President Mike Coleman addressed attendees at all three meetings and updated them on progress at the International level. Each committee later honored General President Sellers for his contributions to the union and the substantial progress made during his time in office. Among the items Sellers received was a fishing rod to use during his retirement, when he will have the chance to spend time with his family.

Remarking at the end of a presentation from the SMART Women’s Committee, whose members were also in attendance, Sellers noted that he “looks forward to seeing the work you continue to do, because you’re shaping SMART.”

SMART Army lands in Memphis

On Thursday, May 18, members of SMART Local 4 in Memphis were joined by SMART members across North America for a community litter cleanup in historic Soulsville, where union members also helped repair and plant in Urban Forest and Community Garden. Following the event, the SMART Army presented a $21,100 check to Memphis City Beautiful, the nation’s oldest beautification commission.

“As part of our Recruitment and Retention Council, Roofing and Building Enclosure Council and Production and Sign Council meetings in Memphis this week, we decided to collectively do what our union does best: uplift working families in local communities,” said SMART General President Michael Coleman, who participated in the volunteer event. “We are proud to partner with organizations like Memphis City Beautiful and the Urban Forest and Community Garden to give back to the neighborhoods in which our members live and work.”

The Local 105 (Los Angeles) SMART Army turned out to help Autism Spectrum Athletics (ASA) with its baseball tryouts in April. ASA, which was established in 2012, offers community- based socialization sports programs that are designed to be stress free and non-competitive, with positive peer support. ASA Chief Executive Officer Manny Zapata is a Local 105 member.

Business Manager Steve Hinson and Business Representatives Donny Sappington, Tim Hinson and Erik Villegas helped facilitate ASA’s baseball activities, demonstrating the power of union solidarity to bring fun and happiness to all.