On Wednesday, October 25, the United States Senate confirmed Jessica Looman as the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. In response, SMART issued the following statement:
“The confirmation of Jessica Looman as the Department of Labor’s Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division is a win for SMART members, our families and working people across this country. Looman has advocated for workers in our industries throughout her career, whether as executive director of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, or in various positions for Minnesota’s Departments of Labor and Commerce. We know she will continue to fight for workers as the head of the Wage and Hour Division, and we commend the Senate for this well-deserved confirmation.”
On August 8, United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) Julie Su announced the publication of a rule that updates the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, strengthening prevailing wage regulations and raising pay standards for SMART members and building trades workers across America. Among other provisions, the updated regulations would restore the DOL’s definition of prevailing wage – making it equivalent to the wage paid to at least 30% of workers in local communities (rather than the weakened 50%) – strengthen enforcement and modernize DOL’s definition of “site of the work” to account for current industry practices. It is expected to raise wage standards for more than one million construction workers.
In response, SMART General President Michael Coleman released the following statement:
“SMART commends the Biden administration and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su for following through on their promise to our members. By updating Davis-Bacon prevailing wage regulations for the first time in more than 40 years, the Department of Labor is working to ensure that construction workers employed on public works projects are paid what they deserve, helping lift more workers into the middle class and boosting the economies in cities, towns and neighborhoods from coast to coast. This is especially vital as projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act continue breaking ground – putting thousands of SMART members to work.
“It’s no coincidence that this announcement arrives just days after Acting Secretary Su joined us at our 2023 SMART Leadership Conference. This is an administration that understands the importance of putting working families first. The gutting of the Davis-Bacon Act under the Reagan administration set us back for decades – now, with this long-overdue update, we can finally ensure that the women and men building our nation receive fair compensation. We thank the Department of Labor and the Biden administration for their continued commitment to SMART members and workers everywhere.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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.
“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 the women and men who embody the highest level of professionalism and expertise in our industries. Their selfless dedication was on display when our countries needed them most: They are the essential workers who carried our nations through the global pandemic. They 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.”
From rank-and-file sheet metal worker to union leader
Sellers – a second-generation sheet metal worker whose father spent 55 years as a SMART member and 30 years as a local union officer – often asserts 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 General President Joe Nigro needed to retire. He was re-elected on August 14, 2019.
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 policymakers 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.
Incoming General President Michael Coleman, a SMART member since 1985, has also served at every level of the union: from president and business manager of Local 33 in Northern Ohio, to ninth general vice president, to SMART director of business and management relations, to his current post as assistant to the general president. He will assume the position of SMART general president on June 1, 2023.
Coleman noted that “General President Sellers will be remembered as one of the all-time greats of this organization. He cemented our groundbreaking merger and navigated the challenges of the past decade. I am humbled to succeed him, and I look forward to advancing the interests of all SMART members across North America in the years to come.”
Each year, Women’s Equal Pay Day recognizes and raises awareness around gender pay inequality. SMART released the following statement on Women’s Equal Pay Day 2023:
“Today is Women’s Equal Pay Day – the date that symbolizes the ongoing state of the gender pay gap. On average, full-time women workers earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by a white man; that number drops to 77 cents when part-time and seasonal workers are included. Asian American and Pacific Islander women, Black women, Latinas and Native American women earn 80 cents, 64 cents, 54 cents and 51 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned (full time and part time) by white men.
“Such pay disparities run counter to the core principles of the labor movement, and unionizing is one of the primary ways we can fight against them. As union members, SMART workers stand together for fair pay and stronger protections on the job. Union women workers make 22% more on average than nonunion women do, along with stronger workplace protections, retirement and healthcare benefits, and more – all won through the power of collective bargaining.
“SMART sisters strengthen our union, and unions strengthen women’s pay and protections – on and off the job. We at SMART will continue our work to recruit, retain and empower women in our union as we organize for a better and more equitable future.”
On February 28, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Bobby Scott and Brian Fitzpatrick reintroduced the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act. In response, SMART issued the following statement:
“Today, we at SMART join Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Reps. Bobby Scott (Va.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) in their call to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
“It’s no secret that workers in unions have higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions. But due to outdated labor laws, too many workers across this country face employer interference in their efforts to organize, unionize and collectively bargain. Those bad faith employers break the law and rake in record profits, while many working people can barely support their families.
“The PRO Act would fully restore the right of workers to form a union and bargain collectively and ensure dignity and fair treatment for all. It’s time for us to hold corporations accountable for union-busting and for the law to work for working people.”
Today the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule to rescind the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP), and will instead direct the department’s resources toward registered apprenticeships. The DOL issued this final rule after reviewing the IRAP as required by Executive Order 14016, in which President Biden directed federal agencies to consider rescinding “any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies” implemented by the previous president’s Executive Order 13801, which promoted IRAPs.
SMART issued the following statement in response:
“We commend the Department of Labor for following through on President Biden’s executive order and recognizing the IRAP initiative for what it was: a bad faith attempt by anti-union contractors and politicians to undermine high-quality union apprenticeship programs and replace them with a watered-down system of certifications. Our registered apprenticeships offer expert training, stellar worker protections and better pay and benefits for workers across the country – no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, creed or place of origin. By rescinding IRAPs and investing instead in registered apprenticeship programs, the Department of Labor has ruled in favor of workers and their ability to find good, union jobs and reliable pathways to the middle class.”
The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 26, 2022 and will go into effect on November 25, 2022. Beginning on the effective date, DOL will no longer recognize Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) or IRAPs.
Today, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, officially codifying this groundbreaking piece of legislation into law. In response, SMART issued the following statement.
“By signing the Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden has once again acted on his campaign promise to be a president for working Americans. Once implemented, the Inflation Reduction Act will help alleviate rising prices for working families by cutting the cost of healthcare, lowering utility bills and making massive investments in green energy and American manufacturing – all with strong labor standards that will help create good, union jobs. Unlike the past administration, this legislation will see absolutely no tax increases for small businesses and families that makes less than $400,000 a year – instead, corporations will finally be held accountable and pay their fair share. And most importantly for our members, SMART workers will be called upon to take on the green energy jobs that this bill creates. We commend President Biden for signing this bill, and we look forward to meeting its demands.”
Today, the Biden Administration released a fact sheet intended to help schools, educators, families and children safely prepare to return to school this fall. As part of its efforts to help local education administrators ensure schools are ready to reopen, the White House noted its collaboration with SMART, SMACNA and NEMI – as experts in indoor air quality, HVAC, ventilation and energy efficiency – and linked to SMART’s “Better Air in Buildings” web page. In response, SMART issued the following statement:
“We welcome the Biden Administration’s continued willingness to collaborate with organized labor, and we commend the White House’s Back to School 2022 fact sheet: intended to give every school the tools to prevent COVID-19 spread and stay safely open throughout the year. SMART appreciates the White House’s partnership as we work to keep teachers, students and families safe through the upcoming school year, and our members across the country are ready, willing and able to perform the work needed to keep schools open safely. Find more information from SMART and from NEMI.”
Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Inflation Reduction Act, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. In response, SMART issued the following statement.
“SMART applauds the work of the United States House and Senate for pushing this vital piece of legislation across the line for working families across our country. The Inflation Reduction Act will combat rising prices, cut the cost of healthcare for working Americans and invest billions of dollars into clean energy facilities and making homes and commercial buildings energy efficient. Importantly, the strong labor standards attached to the tax credits for production, energy efficiency and investment will help create good, union jobs – and SMART members are the workers with the skills and expertise to take on those jobs, from retrofitting schools to building green energy facilities. Our members are ready to meet the demands of this bill and will play a crucial role in solving the climate crisis.”
Today, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, codifying legislation that will strengthen America’s ability to build, expand and modernize semiconductor facilities. In response, SMART released the following statement.
“We commend President Biden for taking swift action and signing the CHIPS and Science Act into law. Not only will the CHIPS and Science Act invest billions of dollars into the semiconductor industry – expanding our national capacity to develop chips and incentivizing companies to increase production – it will mandate that manufacturing to happen in America, and it will support good-paying, union construction jobs by requiring Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rates for facilities built with CHIPS funding. Companies are already responding to the passage of this legislation by making historic investments in American semiconductor manufacturing. SMART members are uniquely qualified to take on this work, and we look forward to taking on that responsibility.”