Joseph Sellers, Jr., general president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), announced his retirement on January 24, 2023. Sellers will retire on May 31, 2023, and will be succeeded by current Assistant to the General President Michael Coleman. Sellers has served as general president since May of 2015, when he succeeded prior General President Joseph Nigro.

“After nearly three decades in SMART local and national leadership, I have chosen to retire,” said Sellers. “It will always be the greatest honor to have represented you — the women and men who embody the highest level of professionalism and expertise in our industries.”

“Your selfless dedication was especially on display during the pandemic, which had an unprecedented effect on all of us and people around the world,” he added.

“You were on the job every day: working on new construction, retrofitting buildings into pop-up hospitals, redesigning hospital configurations, manufacturing much-needed equipment, ensuring the transportation of people and goods, and keeping our supply chain intact and our buildings and schools safe during a tenuous time in our history.”

General President Joseph Sellers discussed his retirement on SMART News.

Sellers — a second-generation sheet metal worker whose father spent 55 years as a SMART member and 30 years as a local union officer — has often said that “all that my family has comes from my father’s career path and the union sheet metal industry.” Sellers devoted more than four decades to his union, committing himself to lead at every level of SMART. He began his apprenticeship in 1980 at Local 19 in Philadelphia, becoming a journeyperson four years later. He was elected to the local’s executive board in 1994 and appointed to be training coordinator in 1996. In 2002, after serving as a business representative for two years, he became Local 19’s president and business manager.

Sellers was elected to international leadership as 11th general vice president in August 2009. The SMART General Executive Council elected him to serve as the union’s general secretary-treasurer (GST) in July 2011, and he was unanimously re-elected as GST by delegates to the first SMART General Convention in August 2014. Sellers became SMART’s general president on May 1, 2015, when his friend and mentor Joe Nigro needed to retire. He was re-elected on August 14, 2019 to continue his term as the second general president in the union’s history.

As SMART general secretary-treasurer and general president, Sellers developed and led special campaigns to increase outreach and awareness for construction, production and transportation industry members, union industry officials and policy makers on key issues including pensions, healthcare and apprenticeships. He implemented enhancements to the union’s technological infrastructure, professional skills training and training curricula, and he pioneered various union campaigns designed to increase recruitment, retention and diversity within SMART.

Sellers oversaw the launch of the BE4ALL Committee to enhance inclusiveness in the sheet metal industry; the I Got Your Back campaign to promote solidarity between members across all backgrounds; the expansion of the role women play in the unionized sheet metal industry and the rapid modernization of the union’s information and communications programs. He also spearheaded new investments in membership mobilization, with an eye towards positioning the organization to meet the long-term needs of members and those looking to form a union in the decades ahead.

As a testament to Sellers’ steady leadership, the Sheet Metal Workers’ National Pension Fund was officially certified in the Green Zone in 2022 after decades of recovery. His tireless legislative advocacy helped SMART establish a strong relationship with Congress and the Biden administration, and his constant championing of workers’ issues helped influence the passage of groundbreaking laws like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and more.

“We are SMART: sheet metal, air, rail and transportation workers,” Sellers remarked during an interview with SMART News announcing his retirement. “And we’re going to do the things together that are important to our union, no matter what sector you come from. Transportation. Sheet metal. Manufacturing. Any one of those sectors, we’re going to be there for each other.”

Incoming General President Michael Coleman has been a SMART member since 1985, when he began his career at Local 65 — now Local 33 (northern Ohio). Like his predecessor, Coleman served at every level of the union, starting as a rank-and-file tradesperson before becoming a member of his local union’s executive board and a business representative after that. He was then elected president and business manager of Local 33 before becoming ninth general vice president in 2019; he quickly transitioned to SMART director of business and management relations, then to his most recent post as assistant to the general president. He will assume the position of SMART general president on June 1, 2023.

“General President Joseph Sellers will be remembered as one of the all-time greats of this organization,” Coleman noted. “He cemented our groundbreaking merger and navigated the multitude of challenges that faced this union in the past decade.”

He continued: “General President Sellers has really prepared us for this moment that we’re about to embark on, with all these megaprojects and all these growth opportunities. I’m looking forward to that challenge; to seeing his vision through, making sure that we’re still prepared and taking advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

Coleman concluded by reminding members that this is their union.

“Whether it be through the work we put in to get allies elected or through the unfortunate circumstances that put freight rail safety front and center on the national agenda, now is our time to act,” he declared. “I am prepared to move this organization forward, and I will work as hard as I can to advance the interests of all SMART members.” 

On January 24, 2023, I announced my retirement as SMART General President.

Serving the membership of our union has been a great honor. My family and I have a first-hand understanding of the transformative impact our union can have on a person’s life — through my own life experience and through the daily interactions I have with members from the transportation and sheet metal industries across our two nations.

As you know, I am a sheet metal worker by trade, like my father was before me. Everything I have, and everything my family has, came about because of our union. I’ve had countless conversations with members who have had similar experiences — who, thanks to SMART and the solidarity of our fellow members, have been able to pursue family-sustaining careers and have retired or are on the path to retiring with dignity.

When our two unions formed to create SMART, it was to strengthen ourselves through unity, so that we could make advancements and bring opportunity to sheet metal and transportation workers across the United States and Canada. As General Secretary-Treasurer and General President, I witnessed our first two SMART General Conventions in history. As I look back today, I can say with confidence that our decision to stand together as one has proven to be successful, with our union making real progress throughout the years.

Thanks to the collective effort of SMART members over the decades, the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund was certified in the Green Zone last year. We successfully lobbied for pro-worker legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as funding for the Union Training Innovation Program and the Labour Mobility Tax Deduction for Tradespeople in Canada. All have made enormous investments in each of our industries: The American Rescue Plan put workers back on the agenda, including pension relief.

I am a sheet metal worker by trade, like my father was before me. Everything I have, and everything my family has, came about because of our union.

I am particularly proud of the strides we have made in recruitment and retention. From the SMART Heroes program to the inspiring growth of our SMART Women’s Committee, this union has committed to the work of making sure every community can access the opportunities that I had: good, union, middle class jobs, family-sustaining salaries, pension and health care plans.

United, we successfully lobbied for pro-worker legislation with real labor standards. Together, we have fought tirelessly against Precision Scheduled Railroading and for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require two-person crews on freight trains. With an engaged membership and renewed public awareness, we have a real chance for change in rail safety regulation. We have planned together to organize aggressively in all sectors, and we will continue to build on our tradition of solidarity as we move forward.

The time has come now for me to pass that tradition on to new leadership. Michael Coleman, your Assistant to the General President, will serve as the new General President starting on June 1. Mike has dedicated himself to our union since the day he joined SMART in 1985, playing a key role in facilitating the 2019 General Convention, and he will serve each and every one of us with the same drive and passion.

Brothers and sisters, this is our moment. This is due to the members who continue to make their voices heard loud and clear across our two nations, and with leadership who continually fight to hold elected officials at every level accountable on the issues we face. With Michael Coleman as our General President, and with the commitment of the membership to our cause, we will seize this moment for ourselves, our families and future generations.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. on his upcoming retirement.

Over the past 10 years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Joe during my time as a General Vice President, Assistant to the General President and the General Secretary-Treasurer, and I have seen his passion and attention to detail first-hand. Joe has always been a tireless advocate for the hardworking men and women this union represents, across all sectors of the transportation, production and construction industries. He has been a leader in the fight for respect on the job, new work opportunities and safe working conditions for all SMART members.

The progress he helped lead during the past 10 years is comparable to what other leaders would have been proud to achieve over the course of decades. He lobbied for pro-worker policies including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and rail safety legislation, bringing the voice of SMART’s membership to the halls of power in Washington, DC, Ottawa and beyond. He was a constant supporter of the work of the SMART Women’s Committee, which has provided invaluable support and mentorship to women in our union. He was a driving force behind the creation of the I Got Your Back campaign, which promoted solidarity between members of all backgrounds across SMART. His leadership has been invaluable in helping to bring greater diversity and inclusion to our union, including the formation of the BE4ALL Committee and Recruitment and Retention Council, and to making sure that the voices of all our members are valued and respected.

Joe has always been a tireless advocate for the hardworking men and women this union represents, across all sectors of the transportation and construction industries. He has been a leader in the fight for respect on the job, new work opportunities and safe working conditions for all SMART members.

Looking towards the future, I look forward to working with Michael Coleman. Mike and I have had the opportunity to work together over the past four years. We have talked about the future and believe that together we will be able to achieve great things for this union. I believe that with Mike’s dedication to the members, we will continue to take great strides in creating more work opportunities for our members.

The example Joe leaves us is one of true unionism: He embodies the idea that when we stand together and fight for what is right, we can make real progress. As we look to the future, we do so with the knowledge that Joe’s tireless efforts have put us on the path to a brighter tomorrow. Thank you, Joe, for your service to SMART and the labor movement. Your legacy of success will continue to inspire us for years to come.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

Ohio native Cassandra Kline has been hired as NEMIC’s director of building construction technology. In that role, she serves as a field representative to SMART locals all over the United States and Canada and is responsible for creating and implementing strategies for the use of new and existing technologies in order to expand skills and opportunities for SMART sheet metal workers and signatory employers.

“I’m building relationships with local unions and contractors, promoting new business ideas and technology, as well as representing NEMIC on committees and developing documents for American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation,” Kline said.

As a second-generation sheet metal worker, Kline began her apprenticeship on the advice of her father, who served as the training coordinator at Local 33 in Toledo, Ohio. Kline’s brother is also a sheet metal worker, and she has an uncle who works in the electrical trade, so union life runs in her family. After graduating high school, Kline moved to Panama City Beach, Florida, and worked in the food and beverage industry for several years before returning to Toledo to take a job as a shop maintenance manager’s assistant. This sparked her interest in the field, and she tested and entered the apprenticeship, graduating in 2020.

During that time, she worked at VM Systems Inc., where she gained experience in TAB, architectural, commercial and heavy industrial applications of sheet metal work. In 2021, Kline took classes through the International Training Institute and became a part-time instructor at Local 33 for fire life safety, indoor air quality and TAB. She then joined Gem Inc. as a field supervisor for the TAB division and was soon promoted to service manager.

She says her rise in the field is a testament to the fact that the sheet metal industry provides opportunities to anyone willing to put in the time and effort.

“Be prepared for the opportunities. Show up, work hard and learn everything you can,” she said.

Kline has been settling into her new role and is enthusiastic about working with the rest of the NEMIC staff.

“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a great team,” she added. “I’m learning every single day and have great mentors looking out for me and helping guide me along the way.”

Kline spends her spare time golfing and enjoying walks with her dog, Huckleberry.

Vince Alvarado, a longtime business manager for SMART Local 49 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, joined NEMIC this past fall as the fund’s new director of implementation. Alvarado has been tasked with overseeing some of NEMIC’s legislative initiatives and working to implement solutions that NEMIC identifies across the country.

NEMIC Director of Implementation Vince Alvarado

“I’m working on the ‘how’ of things. How can we assist locals and contractors in states where we’ve passed legislation on indoor air quality, for example? We get the legislation passed, but there may be no enforcement. We need to change that,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado started working for a small independent refrigeration contractor as a junior in high school. He apprenticed at Local 49 and went on to serve in various leadership roles there, culminating in his election as business manager/financial secretary in 2010. After a few years, he was also elected to serve in a statewide leadership role as president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, in 2018.

In both roles, Alvarado had to find ways to influence local politics. For SMART, he worked on smoke and fire damper legislation. As the leader of the AFL-CIO New Mexico state federation, he assisted in getting various types of legislation in front of state decision makers, most aimed at improving health and safety outcomes for working people and their families.

At NEMIC, Alvarado looks forward to helping people and organizations like Local 49 on this much larger scale, and he realizes he will need to navigate political scenes that may be more complex than he’s previously experienced. COVID introduced to the world many of the issues with indoor air quality, and now it’s time to work to help fix those issues, he said.

“I’ll be working with new faces, which is exciting, but it could be difficult, if I don’t understand the political landscape,” Alvarado said. “While I could approach solutions in my work at Local 49 entirely from a working family perspective, I now have to approach it with more groups in mind. That could be a challenge.”

Even before the pandemic, Alvarado was fighting to improve indoor air quality regulations, along with smoke and fire damper laws. In 2019, Local 49 fought for and passed SB 143 — the nation’s first statewide fire safety law. Alvarado subsequently worked with leaders in Nevada, New Jersey and Hawaii to pass similar legislation.

NEMIC is saying “see you later” to two longtime sheet metal stalwarts who recently retired after decades of valu­able service. Their hard work and the countless contributions they have made as leaders have kept our industry at the forefront of the skilled construction trades.

John Hamilton, director of imple­mentation for the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB), began his career as a sheet metal apprentice in 1982. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, John has been a member of Local 10 in Maplewood, Minnesota, his entire career.

John attended Saint Paul Technical College and graduated with an associate degree in sheet metal and HVAC, which jump-started his apprenticeship. After his apprentice­ship, John spent five years as a field foreman and manager of testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) jobs at Harris Mechanical in Saint Paul. He advanced by joining the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) as a field representative and then the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal industry, as a regional coordinator. During that time, he founded the train-the-trainer program for TAB instructors and developed the current ITI/ NEMIC air duct calculator.

As a regional coordinator, John served as the technical expert for many of the current ITI training modules, including fire life safety, sound and vibration, piping systems, ventilation/indoor air quality, pumps, fans, psychometrics, the TAB manual and the TABB home study course for test and balance.

In 1995, he was hired as the chief operating officer (later, director of implementation) of TABB. There, he helped craft the current International Certification Board (ICB)/TABB certification program; lobbied for fire life safety legisla­tion in cities, counties and states nationwide; worked to get TABB-specific language into thousands of construction specifications; and was instrumental in the accredi­tation of ICB/TABB to ISO/IEC 17024 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Accreditation Board (ANAB).

Scott Hammond, NEMIC’s director of research, is a lifelong resident of Circleville, Ohio. Scott joined SMART Local 24 in Columbus as an apprentice in 1986. As a young journeyperson working with Speer Mechanical, he was appointed to a committee to investigate the establishment of a defined contribu­tion pension plan in the Columbus district. In 1999, he became an organizer with Local 24, where he reached out to potential members and oversaw the youth-to-youth program. He took on additional responsibilities when he was elected business representative in 2008.

In 2011, he became business manager for Local 24. In this role, Scott, his team and fellow leaders of other Ohio locals worked to get ordinances passed in cities and counties around the state to require damper inspections and repairs by ICB-certified technicians.

As the director of research for NEMIC, he used his extensive knowledge of fire damper legislation to help members across the country educate their local politicians, fire and building inspectors and building owners about the impor­tance of HVAC fire life safety.

Scott also served as a trustee on several Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Taft-Hartley funds, and he has represented sheet metal workers on multiple funds, boards and committees, including Mayor Andrew Ginther’s Labor Advisory Committee, established by the city of Columbus, and the Ohio State Building Trades Council Executive Board.

In the aftermath of February’s rail disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a key hearing on March 22 on “Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment” to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the accident and to discuss the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023.

The committee had an all-star cast of witnesses who testified, including two U.S. senators; Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine; East Palestine resident Misti Allison, who represented the community; National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy; David Comstock, chief of the Ohio Western Reserve Joint Fire District; Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw; Association of American Railroads (AAR) CEO Ian Jeffries and SMARTTD’s Ohio State Legislative Director (SLD) Clyde Whitaker. To begin the hearing, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance kicked off the day explaining in detail the bill, S.B. 567, they’re putting forward.

Brown began his comments by thanking the witnesses for testifying and referred directly to SLD Whitaker, calling him “an unrelenting advocate for safe working conditions for his members and all people working in Ohio railroads.”

Brown then went on to discuss why this legislation is so necessary.

“Norfolk Southern followed the Wall Street business model,” he said. “Boost profits and stock price by eliminating, over the last decade, 38% of its workforce.”

WATCH: SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker testified about rail safety issues before a U.S. Senate committee in March 2023.

He went on to describe Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) perfectly, saying, “They cut cost to boost profits. The communities along their route be damned!”

Vance followed Brown, explaining that the intention of the bill is not to put the government in charge of day-to-day operations of America’s railroad companies (like the bill’s outspoken opponents would like the public to believe). He addressed the concern of the rail carriers who have made it known that they feel the legislation is an overreach by Congress, stating plainly: “You cannot on the one hand beg the government to bail you out of a labor dispute three months ago and then say that it’s ‘big government’ to have proper safety standards in the way that you conduct your railroads. It’s a ridiculous argument, and it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Gov. DeWine followed the Buckeye State’s senators and weighed in heavily on behalf of the residents of East Palestine. He started by describing life as it was in the village of 4,700 leading up to events of Feb. 3, 2023. He walked the committee through the Norman Rockwellian Friday night where the community was keenly focused on the high school basketball game in progress until the unthinkable happened.

“Life stopped being normal for everyone in this community — it stopped feeling safe — when 38 cars of that Norfolk Southern freight train, carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of hazardous materials, hurtled off the track. In an instant, life turned upside down,” he said.

DeWine went on to describe the tough questions facing residents of East Palestine revolving around their physical health as well as the viability of their community’s future. These points were driven home by witness Misti Allison. Allison, a resident of East Palestine for the last four years, was testifying in front of the Senate committee on behalf of her community. In her own words, her goal was “to put a face on this chemical disaster.”

In addition to emphasizing DeWine’s points in reference to the health concerns swirling around in East Palestine, she shared other details about a community shattered. Among the issues she brought to the committee’s attention were home equity of the residents, the viability of local businesses and the concerning contradictions in the results of various sources of environmental testing of air, water and soil samples.

From left, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy; David Comstock, chief of the Ohio Western Reserve Joint Fire District; SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker; Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies appear March 22 before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in a hearing regarding rail safety.
From left, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy; David Comstock, chief of the Ohio Western Reserve Joint Fire District; SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker; Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies appear March 22 before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in a hearing regarding rail safety.

The most telling and unique issue she brought to light was the still-developing mental and emotional health concerns of the community post-derailment. She pointed out the ramifications the derailment has had, especially among the youth of East Palestine, in her written testimony: “Kids are not allowed to play on the playground because it hasn’t been cleaned. So the kids now play a game they invented called ‘EVACUATION’ during recess. This train derailment has robbed our kids of their childhood, and perhaps more,” she said.

This imagery is powerful and takes the importance of the Railway Safety Act of 2023 out of the realm of financial ramifications and puts it squarely in the arena of human rights.

At the conclusion of Allison’s testimony, Brother Whitaker took the stage to speak our union’s truth directly to power. SLD Whitaker explained in detail the effects PSR has had on our industry from the ground level.

In July 2022, Whitaker filed a complaint with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) directly reporting that Norfolk Southern had been ordering their crews to disregard warnings from wayside defect detectors in his state and to keep their trains rolling after receiving alerts of hot bearings.

He informed the senators that he had personally cautioned the FRA months prior to the East Palestine derailment that carriers’ business practice and adherence to the PSR doctrine was putting our crews and communities in harm’s way.

“PSR has made the Class I railroads more than $160 billion in profit since 2015 while at the same time causing the greatest degradation of safety in modern-day railroading,” he said in his written testimony. “As we have all seen in East Palestine, this cut-your-way-to-profit model is not sustainable and it is very, very dangerous.”

He further emphasized the impact of PSR on safety by talking about the current state of safety inspections of rolling stock and maintenance of equipment.

“No longer is identifying defects the goal of inspections. Instead, the goal is to minimize the time it takes to perform them or the elimination of them altogether, so the trains keep moving,” he said. “Compound this with the fact that the railroads are on a determined course to grow these trains to astronomical lengths and you have a predictable outcome, and that outcome is East Palestine.”

June is an important month for SMART: It marks 18 months since the launch of the Belong­ing and Excellence for All (BE4ALL) effort. This repre­sents a significant milestone for our organization. It underscores our commitment to creating environ­ments where all workers feel seen and heard, and where they know that they belong.

BE4ALL launched in December 2021 with a stated vision: to create a diverse, inclusive and unionized sheet metal industry that is welcoming and fosters belonging for all. Three organi­zations — SMART, SMACNA and ITI — guide the work of the initia­tive. Each is represented on the joint BE4ALL Committee, which includes members appointed by General President Joseph Sellers.

Eighteen months later, we have a lot to report. Here are a few highlights:

BE4ALL 2023 Calendar

BE4ALL launched its first calendar in January 2023. The calendar is a tool for members, employees and colleagues to learn more about the different cultures and faiths that make up our industry. Local unions and employers have been asked to post the calendar in a public space, such as a break room, lunchroom or community meeting area. The hope is that the calendar will spark conversation about the diverse cultures and lived experiences reflected in our industry.

Bathroom Kits

Through the International Training Institute (ITI), BE4ALL has distributed hundreds of bathroom kits to JATCs across the country. The kits are the result of appren­tices pointing out the absence of menstrual products in local training facilities. As General President Sellers stated in a recent letter to JATC co-chairs, trustees and coordina­tors, providing menstrual products “creates a better learning environ­ment” and lessens “potential stress.” In the future, the goal is for the kits to be present across the industry.

Bias and Belonging Training

BE4ALL has rolled out a new training program called Bias and Belonging. The program seeks to raise awareness about ways that implicit bias — stereotypes that we are not aware that we have, and that may lead to unintentional harm — impacts our day-to-day decisions. The training also offers evidence-based tools and strategies for how workers can reduce and interrupt their implicit biases. To date, more than 100 JATC coordinators and instructors have been trained. For 2023, the plan is to expand the training to the broader membership.

Toolbox Talks

The BE4ALL initiative recently launched BE4ALL Toolbox Talks. The first “talk” focused on Being a Good Crewmate and offered concrete tips for how to support coworkers and colleagues. Ideas included teaching people how to use tools and equip­ment properly, as well as checking in on your teammates and their well-being. Upcoming Toolbox Talks will be published every other month.

Learning Journeys

Another key accomplishment has been the BE4ALL Learning Journey program. These are 90-minute virtual workshops aimed at raising awareness about issues and topics important to our industry, including events of historical and cultural importance to our membership. To date, BE4ALL has conducted seven Learning Journey sessions. These sessions have focused on mental health aware­ness, Pride Month, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month, just to name a few.

This year, BE4ALL will host its second Juneteenth Learning Journey and will introduce other activities in observance of this important date in history.

What is Juneteenth?

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom for those who were enslaved. This did not immediately end slavery in the United States, but it did trans­form the Civil War, as every advance of federal troops expanded the range of freedom.

Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865, 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The 250,000 enslaved people in the state of Texas began to learn of their freedom – and of the end of the war. The day became known as “Juneteenth” by the newly freed people of Texas, and honors the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth is considered the longest-running holiday for Black Americans. In 2021, President Biden proclaimed June 19th to be a federal holiday. In his 2021 procla­mation, President Biden said: “On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And we celebrate the centu­ries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility.”

The observance of Juneteenth is not just for Black Americans, but for the entire nation. Renowned historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said of Juneteenth: “For a country built upon the love of freedom, any manifestation of the enjoyment of freedom should be celebrated by all our countrymen.”

Celebrations may include:

Attending Juneteenth celebra­tions in your community

  • Learning more about the history of Juneteenth and sharing that history with family and peers
  • Visiting museums and commemorative sites that honor the history of African Americans
  • Hosting or sponsoring guest speakers and/or educational opportunities
  • Supporting Black history organizations and Black-owned businesses

Call To Action: To receive regular BE4ALL text or email updates, text “BE4ALL” to 67336 (message and data rates may apply).

For Chris Carlough, SMART Member Assistance Program (MAP) coordinator, the mission is personal.

“I’ve been working with the SMART MAP program for probably about 10 years or so,” Carlough said during an interview with SMART News. “It’s important to me because I’m a guy that’s in recovery from drugs and alcohol, and I see the importance of talking about some of the issues — because people don’t like to talk about mental health.”

The SMART MAP offers mental health awareness and action training, enabling SMART mentors to provide support for members struggling with substance use disorder or mental health issues. The trainings are led by Carlough, who is working to build a compassionate, peer-based support system for members and their families. Carlough brings his own experience in recovery to reach a vulnerable population with a “tough-guy” mentality.

“These trainings start with construction workers who are rough and tumble, who push some of those emotions down,” Carlough said. “‘Rub some dirt on it, pull yourself up.’ And at the end of these trainings, we have members saying they’re going to start doing therapy…and starting to work on some self-care stuff.”

Carlough cited the epidemic of suicide in the construction industry as one of the motivating factors for his work. A CDC study from January 2020 found that the rate of suicides in construction is the second highest in the country: Compared with the national average, a person working in construction is 3.5 times more likely to take their own life.

“A construction worker in this sense is more vulnerable to suicide than they are to the dangers of an actual construction site,” Carlough said. “When we saw that, we realized we needed to talk about this more.” Through the SMART MAP program, Carlough strives to increase dialogue, reduce the stigma and get people the resources they need.

“We’ve been able to pivot over the last few years to peer training,” Carlough said, “which is getting to our rank and file, people on the jobsite or in the shop, and really empowering them to go out there and be peer advocates for their fellow members and getting people to be comfortable to have uncomfortable conversations.”

This important mental health work is being recognized. SMART and SMOHIT received the union award for Mental Health Visionary at the inaugural Construction Working Minds Summit in 2022. In addition, Local 33’s (northern Ohio) Eli Baccus won a Mental Health Champion award in 2022, and Local 18’s (Wisconsin) Craig Holzem is the winner of the same award for 2023.

This work is ongoing and relies on the involvement of all SMART members. Those interested in participating can reach out to their business manager, who can then contact SMOHIT.

A new analysis by the Eco­nomic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that misclassified construction workers lose out on as much as $16,729 per year in income and job benefits compared with what they would have earned as employees. The study, which broadly focuses on worker misclas­sification across multiple industries, not only demonstrates the economic cost faced by workers when their employer denies their basic rights on the job; it also reaffirms the need for Congress to pass pro-worker laws like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

Worker misclassification is one of the more common ways bad-faith employers deprive workers of their rights and fair compensation. By incorrectly classifying an employee as an independent contractor, employers deprive workers of, among other things:

  • Overtime wage and hour protections;
  • The right to earn a minimum wage;
  • Eligibility to participate in state and federal unemployment insurance systems or qualify for workers’ compensation insurance;
  • National Labor Relations Act protections that guarantee workers’ rights to form a union and bargain collectively for better pay and benefits.

The EPI study analyzed the 11 professions most likely to be misclas­sified by employers, including home health aides, landscapers, truck drivers, janitors and nail salon workers. (Notably, the analysis pointed out, “people of color and immigrant workers are more likely to be in occupations where misclassification is common.”) For construction workers, the disparities for misclassified workers — especially when compared to the wages and benefits negoti­ated in a union contract — could mean the difference between a family-sustaining career and living paycheck to paycheck.

The devastating effects of worker misclassification demonstrate how important it is that SMART members and locals work to bring unorga­nized workers into the union.

“According to our calculations, illegal misclassification costs the typical construction worker between $10,177 and $16,729 per year,” the EPI wrote in its study. “These esti­mates are both conservative because we have not attempted to place a monetary value on the worker’s loss, when misclassified as an indepen­dent contractor, of rights guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act, including the possibility of union representation.”

The EPI added: “Policymakers should establish or expand the use of a strong, uniform protective legal test for determining employee status and pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would make it harder for employers to misclassify employees in order to prevent them from forming a union and bargaining collectively.”

The devastating effects of worker misclassification demonstrate how important it is that SMART members and locals work to bring unorga­nized workers into the union.

“Contractors who misclas­sify their employees aren’t just depriving those workers of pay, benefits and protections; they are actively bringing down the wages and working conditions in local areas, and exploiting working families in order to strengthen their market share — taking jobs from SMART members in the process,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “By fighting against misclassification and bringing those workers into SMART, we lift all workers up — including our current and future members.”