The Spring 2024 SMART Members’ Journal is now online. Featuring messages from SMART International leadership, union and industry news, local union updates, service awards and much more, this edition of the journal puts a particular focus on our union’s recent policy victories — highlighting states, cities and federal government action that have created jobs and protected our members.

“Politics can feel like a chore, but when we work collectively to win pro-union politicians and policies, we materially benefit our jobs, our families and our futures.”

SMART General President Michael Coleman.

The spring issue’s cover story was a long time coming: After years of advocacy, organizing, lobbying and fighting against entities like the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the SMART Transportation Division finally won a federal two-person freight crew regulation. The rule, announced in April during an event at the United States Department of Transportation, is a huge step forward for union jobs and rail safety.

Months earlier, sheet metal workers also achieved a federal regulatory victory when United States Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su announced regulations that will officially implement President Biden’s executive order requiring project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal jobs that cost more than $35 million. SMART members joined Su at an announcement event in Cleveland, celebrating a policy that will create work for union sheet metal workers nationwide.

SM Local 206 and fellow building trades unions worked tirelessly in the electoral arena to accomplish something similar in San Diego — first by repealing the city’s ban on project labor agreements in 2022, and then with the unanimous passage of a citywide PLA in 2024, a titanic political shift that’s helping turn San Diego into a union town.

And the Transportation Division’s tireless pursuit of safety for railroad workers paid off when Norfolk Southern agreed to pilot the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), an anonymous safety reporting tool that protects SMART-TD railroaders who share safety concerns with the Federal Railroad Administration.

Those are only a few of the stories told in the Spring Members’ Journal, which also showcases organizing victories in Indiana and Georgia, local union news across North America and information on new funds appointees. View an index of individual articles here, and read the full digital version of the printed journal here.

If you’re like me, then the arrival of another election year is no cause for excitement.

Politics can feel divisive and tedious, particularly in recent years. That’s why many of us choose to exercise our power through the labor movement, where we can band together with fellow workers and take action. We show up at union meetings to win strong contracts and worker protections; we walk the picket line to support our union brothers and sisters; we make collective decisions to fund our pensions and keep our local unions healthy.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is this: Anti-worker corporations and the ultra-wealthy will always be involved in the political process, funding politicians who oppose workers’ rights and union jobs. If we leave the playing field, we will forfeit every gain we made to them and their agenda. They will be the only voices heard by those empowered to write the laws that govern your workplace.

One thing we have learned is that their money is no match for our solidarity, and recent victories have shown how crucial it is that we show up in the electoral arena.

SMART members leapt into political action in the last several years, electing pro-union politicians in 2020 and mobilizing for laws that benefit our families. The results speak for themselves: a recently passed federal two-person crew regulation that protects our railroaders’ safety and job security; federal funding for high-speed rail projects that create jobs for SMART sheet metal workers and railroaders; a surge of megaprojects putting members to work across the United States and Canada; funding that saved SMART members’ pensions; massive investments in public transit and Amtrak; updates to prevailing wage regulations that lift pay for construction workers; and so much more.

“Politics can feel like a chore, but when we work collectively to win pro-union politicians and policies, we materially benefit our jobs, our families and our futures.”

That’s just at the federal level. We know that even more impactful change happens locally. For example, SMART members in Oregon and Connecticut gained enormous amounts of indoor air quality work by partnering with pro-union state legislators and education officials.

Compare those wins with the anti-worker policies of the past. It wasn’t too long ago that we were fighting a Federal Railroad Administration that withdrew a proposed two-person crew rule, and a Department of Labor that tried to replace our apprenticeships with Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). We were constantly on defense.

I prefer offense — winning real gains, not trying to hold on to what we already have.

Brothers and sisters, this isn’t about party affiliation or who says the right thing when they stump for our votes at the union hall. This is about acting for us: the working people who power our nations. Politics can feel like a chore, but when we work collectively to win pro-union politicians and policies, we materially benefit our jobs, our families and our futures.

So I urge you to do just that. Whether it’s a phone bank, a labor walk or simply telling your friends and family to show up to the ballot box, join me in getting involved in the political process this year.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

It is an honor to represent you, the more than 203,000 SMART members who keep North America moving through thick and thin. We at the International in Washington, DC, strive daily to grow our union and win more opportunities for SMART members, from lobbying the federal government for rail safety policy to implementing innovative new strategies to help sheet metal workers travel to megaprojects.

And at the core of everything we do is the founding principle of SMART: We, the members, are the union.

As your general secretary-treasurer, I am committed to working with all of you to secure our collective future. Here are just a few highlights of what we have achieved:

  • In Southern California — with the help of the SMART International Political Action League (PAL), SM Local 104 (Northern California) and fellow building trades unions — SM Local 206 members helped secure San Diego’s first citywide project labor agreement (PLA) after electing pro-union city councilmembers and repealing the city’s PLA ban.
  • At Price Industries in Georgia, a rank-and-file member turned subsidized organizer, Donson Ha, has helped Local 85 achieve stellar growth among a largely Vietnamese-speaking workforce, with two Vietnamese shop stewards helping the local successfully organize in a so-called “right-to-work” state.
  • In Delaware, Local 19 was on the forefront of passing a custom fabrication bill that will protect sheet metal members by ensuring the jobsite standards we built and enforce are not undermined by nonunion competitors.

We’ve seen similar success in the Transportation Division — again, thanks to the active involvement of rank-and-file members and strong trade unionism at the local and state level:

  • Tireless advocacy by state legislative boards in Colorado and Virginia led to the advancement of rail safety legislation. In Colorado, legislation is being considered in the state House and Senate at the time of writing, while in Virginia — thanks in large part to the activism of SMART-TD railroaders who contacted their legislators — rail safety passed through both chambers of the state government before being vetoed by anti-union Governor Glenn Youngkin.
  • That follows the passage of two-person crew bills in Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota and New York in 2023, all of which were signed into law by those states’ respective governors — again, a direct result of the work put in by TD legislative boards and members in each state.
  • Members and local union officers across the country have attended Transportation Division regional training seminars in their areas in record numbers. This emphasis on targeted local education has paid off, with SMART-TD winning appeals at an elevated rate.

This is how we win. By getting active in our local unions; by mobilizing and voting for pro-union candidates; by standing in solidarity with our fellow SMART members, no matter who or where they are. I am proud to stand with every one of you as your union brother, and I hope we will all continue to fight for one another as we take on the challenges in the years to come.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

Brothers and sisters,

We’re building something great here.

In May 2019, months before I took office, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under Donald Trump appointee Ron Batory tried to toss out more than two decades of our members’ and officers’ work to preserve two-person freight crews.

Just days after my administration took office in October, the big rail carriers sued in an attempt to challenge our crew-consist agreements to further open the gates for railroads to get what they wanted — cutting workers in the cab so they could make more money at the expense of safety and common sense.

When both these challenges emerged, we rose up as one union, and we engaged.

The carriers’ lawsuit was resolved in court, and through on-property contract negotiations, our general chairpersons dug in on crew-consist matters. Since that attack in October 2019, we’ve not only preserved the current state of crew consist in the cab, but we have opened, for the first time, paid sick leave and attendance to negotiations so we can make the lives of our members better.

On April 2, United States Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FRA Administrator Amit Bose announced a rule cementing freight train crew size in the country. As a result, carriers will need to carry a very heavy burden of proof in the future if they want the federal government to permit them to cross the line we have drawn on rail safety and crew size. Predictably, the railroads have gone to court to challenge the rule because they can’t leave well enough alone.

The final piece of our puzzle will be getting federal legislation passed to preserve the current safe level of staffing inside the cabs of the freight locomotives we operate. The Rail Safety Act of 2023 (RSA) has been long stationary in Congress. Together, we can get it moving. We will need to work for it, but we can do it. When the two-person crew rule was up for public comment, this union rallied together and created enough pressure in Washington, DC, that we could not be ignored. SMART-TD can and must do the same for the bipartisan RSA.

We also must work with equal focus to resolve the current state of danger that our bus and transit members have faced for far too long. Employers have made safety a low priority when solutions are staring the bosses right in the face. Things in Washington are moving in the right direction, but not fast enough.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) heard and heeded our comments in April when it ruled on the creation of on-property safety plans and on overall national safety plans for public transportation. Our practical solutions — protective barriers for operators, not making them deal with money matters, adding security on buses and transit, tougher punishments for attacks on the members we represent and all other bus and transit workers — can be done. There’s no rational reason for these public transit agencies not to join forces with us on protecting our members.

Most importantly, FTA’s rule states that our men and women will have seats at the table to make decisions on safety measures being taken at their respective workplaces. They will have a level playing field. Employers or managers will not be able to dominate on matters of safety, and if their bosses don’t follow through on the plans our members help form, FTA will step in and enforce them or take away their federal funding.

We in this union refuse to shy away from challenging injustice. It is an energy that we have worked to reignite and stoke the past five years. The results we’ve achieved on the two-person crew, elsewhere in the halls of power on the national and state levels, in negotiations and all around our union speak for themselves.

The same positive outcomes won’t be long in coming to enhance the safety of our bus and transit members. The FTA rule moves us forward. Together we can face all that is ahead for our organization with confidence.

In solidarity,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

The Government of Canada has aspirational goals to achieve a net-zero society by 2050. To help reach those goals and move our national ambitions forward, the construction industry must lean into “Building It Green.” Buildings and construction have been identified as among the three primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) launched a national project to integrate climate literacy into the skilled construction trades’ education and training. The new Building It Green program is Canada’s most comprehensive climate-focused construction curriculum. Funded by Employment and Social Development Canada’s Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP), Building It Green is a national training program to strengthen the construction industry’s ability to support journeypersons, apprentices and training instructors as they manage the emerging and pressing needs of climate change. Transitioning Canada’s workforce to net-zero and ensuring our members receive the skills required to lead the change — without losing jobs — is critical to our economy.

The project’s advisory committee includes affiliate members of the CBTU and national training directors from coast to coast. I would like to recognize and thank Training Coordinator and President of SMART Local 280 (Vancouver, B.C.) Jud Martell. Brother Martell is a member of the Sheet Metal Industry Training Board and provided his expertise and valuable input on the curriculum development for our trade-specific training.

On February 6, 2024, the program was officially launched at the IBEW Local 586 Training Centre in Ottawa, with Minister of Employment, Workplace Development, and Official Languages Randy Boissonnault present. A public webinar on Building It Green climate literacy training — by tradespeople, for tradespeople — was held on February 15. There were also workshops at the CBTU Legislative Conference in April for those who attended.

Ontario organizing blitz

Local 235 is in the southwestern portion of Ontario, servicing the Sarnia, Windsor and Chatham areas. The region is experiencing unprecedented work in all sectors, driven largely by the NextStar battery plant and the Gordie Howe Bridge projects.

The local is currently performing an organizing drive to sign up members for NextStar contractors that are providing building services installations, architectural panels, clean rooms and roof installation, along with numerous members working on the seven-plus buildings at the Gordie Howe Bridge site.

Over the span of five days, four organizers and two International representatives canvassed the Local 235 region. They spent one day canvassing the Sarnia area, three days in the Windsor and Tecumseh areas and the final day in Chatham, handing out pamphlets with QR codes that link to a SMART landing page. Simultaneously, a coordinated blitz was launched on Facebook and Instagram, advertising and promoting the same landing page and upcoming work opportunities.

The landing page analytics revealed a total of 52 submitted interest forms. Local 473 (London, Ontario) Organizer Patrick Gordon scheduled numerous in-person meetings, some leading to organizing campaigns with nonunion companies. Additionally, they compiled a list of close to 70 potential new members with various levels of experience.

From left to right: Bowen LaFave, Scott McQueen, Patrick Gordon, Craig Taylor, Tim Last and Carm Corsaro

Excellent job by Patrick Gordon setting up pinned locations of nonunion sites in the area so time was not wasted finding sites and workers. Outstanding job by the organizers involved: Tim Last of Local 537 (Hamilton, Ontario), Bowen LaFave of Local 30 (Toronto), Carm Corsaro of Local 285 (Toronto), Patrick Gordon and International Representatives Craig Taylor and Scott McQueen.

Recognition of dedication

On February 29, 2024, International Representative for Atlantic Canada Leonard Day retired. Brother Day joined Local 437 (Saint John, New Brunswick) in 1984 and became a journeyperson in 1986. He served in various roles in his local union, including trustee, vice president and business manager/financial secretary-treasurer from 2002–2014. He held numerous positions at the national level as president of the Eastern Conference, president of the Canadian Council of Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers, and on the Board of Trustees for the Local Union & Council Pension Plan.

In 2014, he was appointed by former General President Joseph Nigro as International representative and sat as a board member on both the General Presidents’ Maintenance Committee for Canada and the National Maintenance Council for Canada.

On behalf of all the members, thank you for your years of dedication and service, and may you enjoy a long and healthy retirement with your wife, Della, your family and especially the grandkids!

I remain, fraternally yours, 

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a seven-year citywide project labor agreement (PLA) that will apply to every city project that costs more than $5 million in the first two years and $1 million projects for the following years, rewarding a long effort by SM Local 206 and the San Diego Building Trades to raise working standards in the city. The vote, which took place on January 30, followed a successful referendum in November 2022, when San Diego citizens voted to repeal the city’s 10-year-old ban on PLAs.

“For decades, San Diego was a test lab for what comes when a greedy, conservative establishment runs a big city,” San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It doesn’t work. This place is too expensive, folks aren’t paid enough, and more and more people are wondering how the hell they will continue to live in San Diego.”

PLAs help prevent worker exploitation and construction delays by setting wages, safety standards and regulations at union-negotiated levels, providing stronger pay and organizing complex jobs to be completed on time (saving taxpayer dollars in the process). They also frequently include local hire requirements and goals for employing historically disadvantaged workers, such as homeless people, veterans and more.

In a city that awards more than 100 contracts (approximately) for construction projects each year, San Diego’s new PLA promises years of work for SMART members and construction workers in an area growing ever more expensive to live in. That’s a big deal for working-class people across San Diego, and it’s due in large part to the determination and advocacy of unions like Local 206 in spearheading the successful Measure D referendum.

“I’m very proud to say that our members drove the bus on the passage of Measure D,” said Dave Gauthier, Local 206 business manager and financial secretary-treasurer. “We gave up our weekends and weeknights to repeal the largest PLA ban in the country. Negotiating for and winning this citywide PLA is literally the fruit of our labor, and I’m so happy to share this victory with the entire membership.

Local 206 Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer Dave Gauthier testifies to the San Diego City Council.

“Not only will this PLA provide new career opportunities for our community and more work for our members, it will also help us grow our membership numbers and our contractor base for years to come. We can proudly say that San Diego is now officially a union town!”

The victory on both Measure D and the citywide PLA negotiations demonstrates the importance of members getting involved in the political process. It also showed the power of solidarity across SMART and the labor movement, Gauthier explained.

“We couldn’t have done this without assistance from others in our union,” he said. “We received contributions from the SMART PAL (Political Action League) fund, the Western States Council PAC fund, the California State Building Trades Council and SMART Local 104 (Northern California). We organized a union-first campaign, and we should all celebrate the win together.”

After years fighting for thousands of sheet metal workers and their families as the president and business manager of SMART SM Local 19 (Philadelphia, Pa.) — and for SMART members across North America as a general vice president on the SMART General Executive Council — Gary Masino retired in early 2024.

Gary Masino

A third-generation sheet metal worker, Masino’s career began in the field, where he worked with the tools for approximately 20 years before becoming an organizer in September 2002. In 2006, he successfully ran for local office as a business agent, and in July 2011, he became president and business manager of Local 19. Several years later, former General President Joseph Nigro appointed him to serve as a SMART general vice president.

“I was honored to serve in that capacity and represent Local 19 at the table,” Masino said. “But after looking back on everything, by far the proudest moments of my career were when my two sons Gary and Eric decided to join Local 19, where they both served apprenticeships and are now working in the trade as journeymen.”

Masino took on a variety of leadership roles throughout his career: president of the Pennsylvania State Council of Sheet Metal Workers, president of the Mechanical Trades District Council of the Delaware Valley and vice president of the New Jersey State Council of Sheet Metal Workers. He also served as an executive board member of the Pennsylvania State Building Trades and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

His leadership and industry expertise led former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to appoint him to the Philadelphia Department of Licensing and Inspection’s Board of Appeals in 2012, as well as the city’s zoning board in 2014. In 2015, then-Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Masino to his Transition Committee for Labor and Industry, later appointing him as a commissioner of the Delaware River Port Authority Board to lend his expertise in revitalizing the city’s historical ports. Current Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro later named Masino to his transition team as well, on the Workforce Development Subcommittee.

“I believe that everything I have, from the day I was born, wouldn’t have been possible without Local 19.”

Throughout Masino’s time as president and business manager, Local 19 organized aggressively to bring in new members, take on low-road contractors, elect pro-worker champions and pass legislation that benefited SMART members and working-class families. Masino’s tenure included historic, challenging times for workers: the aftermath of the Great Recession, during which Local 19 had 800 members out of work, and the COVID-19 pandemic. But years of organizing, strategic financial decisions and the appointment of full-time Political Director Todd Farally helped achieve membership growth, financial security and legislation that created work for members, putting the local in a position to secure its future.

In a retirement message to Local 19 members, Masino noted several of his proudest accomplishments: establishing a Local 19 holiday fund for out-of-work or injured members, which evolved into a program that offers qualified members a $1,000 benefit; the creation of a retiree family benefit that increased the local’s death benefit; growing the local’s sub-benefit; significantly increasing the contribution into the local’s annuity in some areas; securing the pension fund; and negotiating some of the strongest contracts in the local’s history.

Masino brought the same drive to the SMART General Executive Council, working with fellow leaders at the International to pursue growth and legislative wins that are benefiting SMART members across our two nations.

“I’ve had a great career,” he concluded. “I believe that everything I have, from the day I was born, wouldn’t have been possible without Local 19.”

The SMART Transportation Division began a new era in rail safety and worker protection by working with Norfolk Southern to accept and act on anonymous safety reports.

How It Works

The one-year pilot program, called the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), is similar to one that airline personnel use to hold their airlines accountable. Rail workers will share safety concerns through a secure website. NASA, acting as an independent party, will organize, anonymize and share the reports with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Under FRA guidance, improvements will be made by a joint committee including SMART-TD and other rail labor representatives, as well as Norfolk Southern management.

A Long Time Coming

C3RS first came to the rail industry in 2007, when SMART-TD predecessor United Transportation Union (UTU) and Union Pacific (UP) participated in an early version, running until 2013. They piloted the system in Bailey Yard, North Platte, Nebraska, the largest rail yard in the world. The program was highly successful: It increased safety and reduced critical incidents and rule violations. The program also greatly decreased employee discipline. Other Class III and passenger rail carriers began to benefit from the system around the same time.

The program requires voluntary agreement among the rail carrier, labor and the federal government. Despite its success, UP refused to renew the program, effectively killing it. SMART-TD has engaged in an ongoing effort to reintroduce the program at all Class I carriers.

We Have Only Begun to Fight

After our 17-year effort, Norfolk Southern (NS) decided to take the lead on rail safety, and this C3RS agreement shows that CEO Alan Shaw is serious in his commitment to making NS the safest railroad by partnering with rail labor. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and General Chairpersons Tommy Gholson, James Ball, David Phillips, Dan Weir and Joe Borders began making real progress with NS executives in 2023, resulting in a signed agreement on February 15, 2024.

“For years we’ve watched the successes of the several shortlines that have practiced under C3RS, and because of that, for years, we’ve long been advocates,” said Gholson, who was instrumental in negotiating the pilot program.

Gholson also praised the efforts of the four other general chairpersons for their roles in constructing the C3RS framework. Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity provided leadership by being a facilitator in the process and coordinating with the FRA.

SMART-TD: Out in Front

In a speech soon after the agreement’s signing, Ferguson said: “Rail labor has been out in front since the beginning. We have always advocated for the right to have a protected avenue to report safety concerns and injuries without fear of harassment, intimidation or retribution.

“For far too long, this nation’s rail carriers have been complacent with their approach to safety. Obviously, this is something that can’t be reversed overnight, but we are hopeful that the corrective process can begin with a program like C3RS.

“There is no higher priority for SMART-TD or the workers we represent than safety, not just for their own welfare but also for the communities in which they operate.”

SMART Administrative Assistant Jackie Miesner retired from the SMART International staff on February 1, 2024, bringing an end to a nearly 40-year career in our union.

Miesner began her career in 1986 and provided endless assistance to the SMART Departments of Governmental Affairs, Education, Production, Organizing and Strategic Campaigns — supporting local unions and members across North America with pride and devotion.

SMART is grateful for Jackie’s 38 years of dedicated service to our union, and we wish her a long and healthy retirement!

In December 2023, 30-plus-year sheet metal worker Lance Deyette was elected a general vice president on the SMART General Executive Council.

Deyette is a graduate of Bates Technical College and started his apprenticeship with SM Local 66 (Seattle, Washington) in 1988. Deyette turned out as a journeyperson in 1992 and worked at Olympia Sheet Metal, US Sheet Metal and Sunset Air as a journeyperson, foreman and superintendent. In 2005, he was elected to serve the membership as a Local 66 business representative, and on June 1, 2020, Deyette was appointed regional manager of Local 66 and vice president of the SMART Northwest Regional Council. Three years later, Deyette became president of the Northwest Regional Council, winning election to the position on July 1, 2023.

Deyette serves as a trustee on the Northwest Sheet Metal Workers Pension, Northwest Sheet Metal Workers Healthcare Trust, Northwest Sheet Metal Organizational Trust and the Western Washington Sheet Metal Training and Apprenticeship Program, along with the Oregon Master Pension Plan for Local 16. He also serves on the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Executive Board and is the president of the Olympia Building and Construction Trades Council.