Brothers and Sisters,

Happy Fourth of July from myself and the SMART General Executive Council. Wherever you are across the country, I hope you are able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor with friends and family.

This is an exciting Independence Day for our union. Our efforts over the past several years are starting to pay off, and we are now in a time of unprecedented opportunities.

Public and private infrastructure projects are breaking ground across the country, putting SMART members to work in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, New York and well beyond. The strong labor standards tied to federal funding on both current and future projects will help create thousands of sheet metal jobs for our members – plus, local unions still have ongoing core work. It is a good time to be a union sheet metal worker.

In the transportation sector, SMART-TD members are finally beginning to see progress on battles we have been fighting for years. Two-person crews are now the law of the land in Ohio, Kansas and Minnesota, and the federal Railway Safety Act continues to move forward in the United States Senate. We are also seeing major projects break ground related to Amtrak infrastructure. These projects will put sheet metal members to work on jobs that will benefit transportation members’ working conditions.

I want to thank every single member who hit the pavement to make these gains, whether you got out the vote last election, called your elected representatives to tell them to vote for rail safety or simply showed up at your local union meeting to get involved. YOU are the reason we are in this position.

Now, let’s take advantage. This is our time to act, to make sure we continue our forward momentum. The influx of sheet metal work is creating enormous demand – now is the time to organize and recruit across all communities to strengthen our union and grow our collective bargaining power. For our railroaders and transit operators, momentum and media attention are on our side. Let’s seize this opportunity to educate our friends, neighbors, communities and lawmakers, and finally win the safety and job protections we deserve.

All the gains we have made are a result of the core values of unionism: solidarity, equality, freedom, democracy. These are principles we hold dear – as union members, and as Americans. This Independence Day, we honor the generations of Americans who have given the ultimate sacrifice to uphold those principles and maintain our independence. Your bravery will never be forgotten.

Once again, happy Fourth of July – please stay safe, and enjoy the holiday.

Brothers and Sisters,

On behalf of myself and the SMART General Executive Council, I’d like to wish all our Canadian brothers and sisters, and your families, a happy Canada Day.

Canada Day commemorates the day of Canada’s Confederation in 1867 – and this year, the holiday arrives on the back of major progress for our union.

On March 28, the Government of Canada released the 2023 Federal Budget, which included strong investments to build Canada’s green economy, as well as one of the strongest definitions of prevailing wage in Canadian history. By tying incentives for tax credits to a prevailing wage that incorporates union compensation, including benefits and pension contributions, this Federal Budget will raise workers’ living standards and create good-paying, middle-class jobs as we build our green energy future.

The federal government continues to invest in the Union Training Innovation Program, which provides new funding streams for our local unions and training centers. And Canada’s net-zero goal, which requires the retrofitting of all buildings across our country, will put sheet metal workers and roofers on jobs for years to come.

These are huge victories that could not have been won without the perseverance and advocacy of our Canadian members. But we still have much to achieve.

Canada’s green energy goals will create a workforce demand that will require our union to grow. In order to do so, we must collaborate with the government to bring more workers into the skilled trades; organize in municipalities and provinces across our nation; and make sure we are present in every community, ready to lift Canadians of all backgrounds into a union career.

Workers in every industry and sector are fighting for better treatment and working conditions, and we all have a role to play in helping those workers achieve the freedom and dignity of a union career. That includes our Indigenous brothers and sisters, women, people of color and other communities that have been marginalized throughout Canada’s history. When we build a labour movement that is inclusive and welcoming of all Canadian workers, we will be truly unstoppable.

Finally, as you celebrate Canada Day with loved ones, I want to encourage all of us to honour the generations of Canadians who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms and democracy.

Happy Canada Day – enjoy the holiday, and please stay safe.

Ahead of former SMART General President Sellers’ retirement, he sat down with General President Coleman to discuss Sellers’ career, his proudest accomplishments, Coleman’s priorities as general president and the future of SMART.

“It’s been a great honor to serve you as our general president, representing our brothers and sisters who keep our two nations moving. It’s a privilege that I have cherished, and I have not taken for granted,” Sellers said.

Both Sellers and Coleman agreed: The time is now to secure generational progress for SMART members across industries. Megaprojects are breaking ground across North America, rail safety legislation continues to advance in state houses and the federal government, and members are sounding the alarm on important issues like bus and transit operator safety. Momentum is on our side, Sellers and Coleman each pointed out; now we need to take advantage.

“We are going to push forward,” Coleman said. “We are going to represent our members on a day in and day out basis. The team that we’ve built here wants to do that, and we’re working as a team to better the lives of sheet metal workers and transportation workers. This is our moment; this is where we need to be.”

Michael Coleman, a longtime SMART member with decades of leadership experience at the local and international level, assumed the position of SMART general president on June 1, 2023, following the retirement of Joseph Sellers on May 31. Coleman was elected general president by the SMART General Executive Council, which in turn was elected by delegates to the 2019 SMART General Convention.

“It is the honor of my lifetime to serve this great union – one that has given myself and my family everything we have,” said Coleman. “General President Sellers has worked tirelessly to position this union for success in the future, from winning pro-worker federal legislation to helping oversee the Green Zone certification of the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund. I look forward to building on his legacy and working to advance SMART members’ priorities.”

SMART General President Michael Coleman (right) tours the Blue Oval City project in Stanton, Tenn.

Coleman began his career as a SMART sheet metal worker in 1985, when he joined what was then Local 65 in Cleveland, Ohio (Local 65 merged with Local 33 soon after). After graduating into journeyperson status and honing his craft for several years, he ran for election as a member of the local’s executive board. From there, he became business representative, then Local 33 president and business manager in 2012.

At Local 33, Coleman cultivated a reputation for pursuing innovative strategies in order to organize more members, effectively structure benefit and pension plans, provide greater flexibility to members and more. He worked tirelessly to boost the local’s profile throughout northern Ohio and West Virginia and demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box in taking on the challenges our union faces.  

Seven years later, Coleman moved to Washington, DC to work as SMART’s director of business and management relations. Shortly after that, General President Sellers asked Coleman to become assistant to the general president, a position in which he served until May 31, 2023. In all, Coleman has more than 20 years of dedicated leadership at the local and international level. He played a crucial role during SMART’s second-ever General Convention in 2019, serving as secretary of the Constitution Committee and shepherding through 114 proposed amendments – helping to facilitate the democratic process of our union and positioning SMART for future success.

During the last decade, SMART members have mobilized to win transformational victories for working families across North America. SMART sheet metal workers are on the forefront of new and pending megaprojects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as partnering with the Biden administration to perform much-needed indoor air quality work. The union’s political advocacy has helped spark forward progress on regulation related to two-person freight train crews and rail safety, and SMART’s organizing activity led to groundbreaking wins in Alaska, California and beyond. Coleman, who plans to hit the road to meet with SMART members in his first months as general president, vowed to continue this forward progress.

“The members are the union – that was the core value of this union when I joined in 1985, and it remains the foundational principle of SMART to this day,” he said. “When we come together to fight for our jobs, our communities and our families, we cannot be stopped. This is our time, and I will work as hard as I can to help us seize this opportunity.”

Watch an interview with General President Michael Coleman from episode 7 of SMART News.