Brothers and sisters, I want to start by saying that it is the honor of my lifetime to represent you, the men and women of SMART.

This great union has given me and my family everything we have; I promise to dedicate myself to ensuring every member, current and future, has the same opportunity. And make no mistake: Thanks in no small part to General President Sellers, this is a time of unprecedented opportunity for workers in North America

In the sheet metal industry, we are seeing an extraordinary amount of new work across our two nations: dozens of megaprojects with strong labor standards, the return of manufacturing in America, a new emphasis on indoor air quality and more.

Following the disaster in East Palestine and increased media pressure, the SMART Transportation Division is seeing real movement on rail safety for the first time in years, both at the state level and with the steady progress of the federal Railway Safety Act.

Transit operator safety is making headlines in states across the country, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, providing the public awareness and momentum to finally secure real change to the unacceptable status quo.

The actions we take today will determine the future for our communities, our families and our union for decades to come. The time is now — let’s take advantage of it.

This is our moment. But only if we act.

The time is now to grow:

Megaprojects are creating workforce demands that are nearly unheard of — and that’s not even mentioning our core work. On both the International and the local level, we need to ensure that we are recruiting and welcoming people from all the communities in which we live and work: women, people of color, LGBTQ+ workers, veterans, the formerly incarcerated and more.

The time is now to get involved:

SMART-TD is on offense. But momentum and media attention are not constant; we cannot wait to make our presence felt in our communities and in the offices of our elected officials. Push your elected representatives and U.S. Senators to vote for a strong, pro-worker Railway Safety Act, and connect with your local union to find out what legislation, regulation or organizing is happening in your area. One example: On April 26, the Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) posted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding public transportation agency safety plans; SMART-TD has worked with bus members and vice presidents to submit a compelling argument on members’ behalf.

The time is now to organize:

We cannot expect to apprentice our way into the growth we need to secure our future. By organizing nonunion workers across all crafts and industries into SMART, we will bolster our collective bargaining power, increase our market share and help communities across our two nations realize the value of union membership: family-sustaining pay, meaningful benefits, a strong pension and dignity on the job.

Brothers and sisters, the actions we take today will determine the future for our communities, our families and our union for decades to come. The time is now — let’s take advantage of it.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Michael Coleman

I want to begin by congratulating Michael Coleman on his election by the SMART General Executive Council to serve as our General President. I have worked with Mike for years and look forward to where he will lead us as we move forward together, in solidarity.

In this pivotal moment, we stand at the crossroads of opportunity and challenge. The 2024 election looms ahead, presenting us with a chance to continue to shape the course of our nation’s future. At the same time, rapid technological advancements are revolutionizing the way we live, work and connect. We must seize this moment to prepare for the upcoming election, embrace the promise of technological innovation and position our union to navigate the changes that lie ahead.

The 2024 election will influence our nation for decades to come. We need to elect allies who stand by our union and work with us to improve the lives of SMART members, our industries and our families. There is too much at stake for us to turn back to an administration when we were constantly defending ourselves from attack after attack on the standards we set for generations of Americans.

Now is the time to engage in active political participation, to become informed about the issues that matter most to us as union members and to exercise our right to vote. By understanding the platforms and policies of political candidates, we can make informed choices that align with our union values. This means voting for those who stand with us on rail safety, new work opportunities for sheet metal workers, bringing back domestic jobs and ensuring working people are treated fairly.

Now is our time to act and position our union for a future of progress and prosperity. Let us come together, transcend differences and work towards a common goal: a dynamic union that thrives amidst change, that embraces innovation, and that uplifts each and every one of its members.

In parallel, technological innovation has become an integral part of our daily lives, transforming industries and societies alike — and we must prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. Investing in training for the sheet metal industry of tomorrow is crucial for SMART to remain at the forefront of innovation. By promoting our role in rebuilding America’s infrastructure through new data centers, electric battery plants and microchip plants and improving the quality of air in our schools, we will ensure our union is equipped to tackle the challenges and embrace the opportunities that the future holds.

Lastly, we must strive to build a united and inclusive union. Nurturing our solidarity through programs like I Got Your Back and embracing diversity and inclusion are vital to our growth, our competitiveness and our collective efforts to fulfill the core goal of our union — representation for all members. Doing this puts us on the forefront of creating a society that is fair and just for all, addressing systemic issues and securing equal opportunities for everyone.

Now is the time to act and position our union for a future of progress and prosperity. Let us come together, transcend differences and work towards a common goal: a dynamic union that thrives amidst change, that embraces innovation, and that uplifts each and every one of its members.

In solidarity,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

On March 28, the Government of Canada released the 2023 Federal Budget, which included strong investments to build Canada’s green economy. The definition of prevailing wage outlined in this budget is one of the strongest in Canada’s history. Tying incentives to a prevailing wage that incorporates union compensation, including benefits and pension contributions, will raise workers’ living standards, maximize benefits for the entire economy and create good-paying, middle-class jobs as Canada transitions to sustainable energy.

The government has an opportunity to make significant progress towards Canada’s net-zero goals. We applaud Natural Resources Canada for obtaining and considering the diverse perspectives and impacts its net-zero strategy may have; now it is time to make bold moves to decarbonize buildings. Canada is falling behind on its Pan-Canadian Framework measures, and an increase in retrofit rates, from 1% to 3-5%, is required to reduce green-house gases emissions. For Canada to meet its goals, regulations must include time-bound commitments for net-zero emissions and energy efficiency standards.

Industry is ready to support this transition. We are ready to grow and meet the demand by welcoming Canadians into the skilled trades, and we will collaborate with the government to continue driving Canadians towards a career in the trades. Students, minority groups, new Canadians and transitioning workers should continue to be a priority.

As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role.

The Canada Green Buildings Strategy cannot leave any Canadian behind and must include cooperation with provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments, as well as appropriate provisions of support. Without a strategy to support low-income Canadians, Canada will not achieve net-zero emissions. These five million Canadians have been largely left out of the energy transition to date – even though low-income family dwellings tend to account for a significantly higher proportion of emissions in housing building stock. The green buildings strategy must also consider the unique characteristics and needs of Indigenous housing. We must continue to make this a priority.

On June 15, forward progress continued when the government tabled Bill C-50, which addresses Canada’s transition to a carbon neutral economy while supporting workers and creating sustainable jobs. Among other things, this bill would create a sustainable Jobs Partnership Council to encourage sustainable job creation and support workers and communities, as well as establish a Sustainable Jobs Action Plan and Secretariat. As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role. HVAC uses 35% of the energy in buildings (up to 65% in the residential sector); energy efficiency improvements will reduce carbon emissions. We must use our expertise and be a resource for local, provincial and the federal government in achieving sustainability goals.

To close: On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank retired General President Joseph Sellers for his years of dedication and service during a career of passion and advocacy, of representing workers in all sectors, from the local to the International level. You have been a strong leader and a voice for the inclusion of all workers in our organization, ensuring that we have each other’s back. The programs and initiatives that you fostered and promoted will be a great legacy for SMART. We wish you a long and healthy retirement, enjoying time for yourself and Beth along with friends and family!

In Solidarity,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

Darrell L. Roberts is now assistant to the general president at SMART. Previously, he served as the SMART director of organizing and spent nearly 14 years as the executive director of Helmets to Hardhats (H2H). He has served in the United States Navy as a hull technician and attained the rank of petty officer second class. He served in the Army National Guard as a staff sergeant. In March 2003, he was activated for a yearlong deployment to Kosovo, where he served as an infantry squad leader.

“I consider my position as assistant to the general president to be the latest in a long line of opportunities,” Roberts said. “I look forward to serving SMART members and their families in this new capacity.”

Darrell worked in the field for many years as a union sheet metal worker. He serves on the U.S. Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO), as well as the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education (VACOE) for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a lifetime member of the VFW and a member of the American Legion, as well as a board member of the American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT). He holds a master’s degree in executive leadership from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the National Labor College. Darrell resides with his family in southern Maryland.

New SMART General President Michael Coleman has been stepping up for his fellow members since his days as a rank-and-file sheet metal worker in Cleveland. He worked as a foreman shortly after becoming a journeyperson, then decided he wanted to represent his brothers and sisters in the local.

“I realized very early on I wanted to be a leader in the industry,” he said. “I wanted to help represent the membership — that’s what led me into becoming an elected official, just my desire to represent the members.”

Coleman became a business representative at Local 33 in his early thirties; as time progressed, he decided to run for business manager to ensure member voices took priority in northern Ohio. There, he garnered a reputation for innovation: pursuing groundbreaking strategies in order to recruit more members, effectively structure local funds, provide greater flexibility to members and more.

Local 33 Business Representative Corey Beaubien, Director of Partnership Development Eli Baccus and International Representative Tom Wiant specifically praised changes Coleman made to the local’s scope of work and organizing — from building out Local 33’s fire life safety capacity, to devising special agreements and intra-local travel incentives to maintain work during economic slowdowns, to restructuring the organizing department to maximize cohesion and effectiveness. The result: steady growth at the local.

“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,”

“Every decision that he’s made, it’s always been about the members first,” Beaubien said. “He was very successful in pushing us in organizing as a leader, and with the success he had in Ohio, I believe it’s going to translate to the whole country.”

Current Local 33 President and Business Manager Tim Miller agreed, pointing to the redirect fund Coleman conceived to give members more choice in the disbursement of health and pension funds.

“The members love it to this day,” he said. “It works, and it’s an example of how Mike just doesn’t take no for an answer. He knows there’s a solution to the problem, and he continues until he finds that solution and then he implements it.”

After several years leading Local 33, Coleman moved to Washington, DC to work as SMART’s director of business and management relations. Mere months later, General President Sellers asked Coleman to become assistant to the general president, a position in which he served until May 31, 2023. 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. He also worked side-by-side with Sellers to push for legislation that positions SMART members for future success.

That work is now beginning to bear fruit. “It’s our time. Now is our time,” Coleman declared.

In the short term, he explained, the dozens of megaprojects breaking ground across North America present local sheet metal unions with both unprecedented opportunity and workforce challenges. At the same time, rail and transit operator safety has become a headline issue from California to Charlotte, presenting SMART Transportation Division members with the chance to go on offense and secure lasting legislation and regulation. Key to both sets of priorities, Coleman noted, is the need to recruit and retain workers across crafts and industries, no matter their background.

“This is an opportunity to organize; organize like I don’t know I have ever seen before,” he said. “We have a chance to grow, to strengthen our numbers, to become a force in markets, communities and government offices across our two nations. We need to reflect the communities we all live in, and we need to ensure every member of this union — regardless of race, creed, beliefs, place of origin, sexual orientation or anything else — knows that they belong.”

With opportunity comes great challenges, Coleman added. Staffing megaprojects while maintaining core sheet metal work requires a new scale of organizing and recruiting, and the flighty winds of politics mean that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to securing meaningful transportation safety legislation. Nevertheless, momentum is on our side.

“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,” Coleman said. “When we come together to fight for our jobs, our communities and our families, we cannot be stopped. I want all members to understand that we’re going to continue with our representation, and we’re going to continue coming up with new initiatives that make their lives and their families’ lives better.”

Retired SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. received a rail lantern in appreciation of his service at the Transportation Division Board of Directors meeting on April 4, 2023. From left are: Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant; Vice President John Whitaker; Vice President Chad Adams; SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell; TD President Jeremy Ferguson; GP Sellers; Vice President Brent Leonard; Vice President Jamie Modesitt; Vice President David Wier Jr., Vice President Joe Lopez and Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes.

Under ordinary circumstances, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department relies on National Legislative Director (NLD) Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Legislative Department Chief of Staff Jenny Miller to educate our nation’s lawmakers on rail safety. But on this year’s “Railroad Day on the Hill” — held annually on the legislative calendar — 35 men and women representing 15 different states answered the call, traveling to Washington, DC to advocate for railroaders.

This formidable group of SMART-TD representatives conducted more than 100 meetings with legislators: sharing the gospel of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, shorter trains, increased quality of life and better safety inspections of rolling stock with any Congress member or staffer willing to listen.

In addition to holding this important series of meetings and reaching out to over 100 members of the House and Senate, SMART-TD representatives attended a press conference in support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he announced the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. This legislation includes provisions ensuring that every company with over 100 employees provides a minimum of 7 paid sick days to its employees. This bill has language in it that speaks directly to railroad companies.

The Healthy Families Act indicates the progress our union made in the 2022 national contract negotiations. In December 2022, Sanders pushed for similar legislation that was strictly aimed at railroaders — and though it won a majority of votes in both the House and Senate, it failed to get the 60 votes needed to carry a filibuster-proof supermajority and make it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

With the ramifications of this bill’s success weighing heavily on the quality-of-life improvements that SMART-TD continues to seek for our members, Sen. Sanders reached out to SMART’s Legislative Department and made a point of inviting our representatives to his press conference.

Following the successes of the day’s events, NLD Hynes expressed his gratitude to the army of SMART-TD leaders who made the trip.

“These men and women went above and beyond the call of duty to be here today, and because of them, we had a fantastic show of force in the halls of Congress. The validity of our issues speaks for itself, but when leaders from these different states show up to meet with their congressional and senate delegations, it makes an impact on these lawmakers,” he said. “They hear from Jared Cassity and me all the time, but when someone from home comes to meet with them in DC, it puts a face to our issues in a unique way.

“I want to thank each and every one of them for making the effort to come out this year, and with your help, we will deliver on the promise of the Railway Safety Act, the REEF Act, and all the issues that speak to the quality of life our members deserve and the dignity of the work they do each day.”

This issue’s Rail, Mechanical and Engineering (RME) Department Report is from International Representative Larry Holbert:

During my 40-plus years as a railroader, I have always sought out opportunities to participate in my union, not only in the General Committee or at the International level, but also at my local union. As a lot of you have heard me say: At every level of our organization, we are only as strong as our local unions. While I’ve certainly seen a lot of changes in the last 40 years, this is one thing that has not changed — the local anchors us both to our fellow members and to our craft.

Attending local meetings over the years, I have always been fascinated when looking at each union’s original charter and reading the names and signatures of the brothers and sisters who drew on said charters to establish our locals, hold the first elections of officers and join their fellow workers in the International. The work confronting these past members required their commitment and dedication: They built their locals to be financially responsible, they drafted and adopted bylaws to govern their affairs, and they eagerly trained on their obligations at the International and on compliance with the law, learning to navigate the Department of Labor, IRS and various other regulatory agencies. Most importantly, they chose who they wanted to enforce their contracts, settle grievances, protect the rights of their members and ensure their work jurisdiction — electing their officers and, when necessary, stepping up to serve in elected roles.

The strength of our locals and the directions they have taken have always been determined by the consensus reached by membership when a local met — it was not just three or four members at meetings making decisions for the rest! Participation in one’s local not only helps members to look out for and support each other, but also builds a stronger and more resilient workforce and protects our trade. You might decide that you have better things in life to do than to attend a meeting, but when you find yourself injured on the job or terminated for not having your PPE on, you’re hoping a fellow member will be there to lend a hand. Or when the carrier gets the idea to remove all the sheet metal workers from the service tracks, you’re hoping you’ll have all your local brothers and sisters there to prove that it’s you and your fellow workers who make the trains run — not dangerous and cynical cost-saving measures.

Brothers and sisters, you need to get involved in your union, you need to serve as officers and continue getting educated; without dedicated officers, there would be no union to speak of. It’s easy to blame our current issues on past officers, but in my opinion, all it comes down to is the proper filing of claims and grievances and to the good retention of documents. Railroad workers have an excellent and effective process for handling claims and grievances under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act. Although I fully agree that nowadays this is much harder than it used to be — with the carriers assigning “labor relation experts” with very limited knowledge of the work we do to respond to our grievances — this only proves that now is the time for our local union leaders, armed with all the training and support that has been made available, to help build competitive and strong locals that are able to stand up to the carriers.

Local officers are the ones who are in the shops every day; they alone can see whether or not a contract is being lived up to, not your general chairperson and not the International. There are a lot of opportunities in this department to change things. We’re just waiting for you to get involved.

Congresswoman Craig

SMART’s political advocacy has paid off during recent years, as pro-labor members of Congress voted to invest in our jobs and our industries with the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. International and local union leaders continue to forge political relationships in order to benefit members across the country — and in April, the strength of those relationships was made clear, as congressional leaders from both parties stopped by SMART’s reception during the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Legislative Conference.

SMART members in attendance heard from Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Nannette Barragán (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Valerie Hoyle (D-Ore.). Members in each representative’s respective state turned out in force to put those candidates in office; in return, each candidate has acted on our behalf: from introducing legislation to bring labor to the table on workforce training standards, to voting to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

“I’m standing here today because of labor,” Craig said before urging Local 10 (Minnesota) members to leave to watch the Minnesota Wild playoff hockey game. “You knocked so many damn doors, and I promise I will be here for you every damn day.”

Congresswoman Hoyle

“I can guarantee to all of you that I’m never going to stop fighting for you,” Hoyle declared later. The former UNITE HERE member added: “If you come into my office, I’ve got hard hat stickers from SMART, I’ve got my AFL-CIO posters up — you walk into my office, you know it is a union office.”

SMART members also heard from Local 19 (Philadelphia, Pa.) President and Business Manager Gary Masino, who is currently running for city council to represent Northeast Philadelphia. Masino was born and raised in Northeast Philly — he knows from experience that working people need a champion for their interests in office. As councilmember, he vowed to work tirelessly for safer streets, jobs that pay livable wages and to invest in Philadelphia schools.

“I’m going to fight for labor and do everything I can to make Philadelphia a union town again,” Masino said.

SMART’s relentless political advocacy over recent years has helped foster massive infrastructure investment on both public and private projects. From New York state, to Central Ohio, to Arizona and well beyond, megaprojects are creating tens of thousands of jobs for SMART sheet metal workers — all with a presidential administration that is pushing hard for these projects to include strong labor standards that create union jobs.

“Right now we’re tracking close to 300 megaprojects — we know that there will be about 60 that will break ground, are currently started or will be starting this year,” said SMART Chief International Representative Scott Parks. “It wasn’t that long ago that a $1 million sheet metal job was very exciting; now we have 60 megaprojects in the pipeline. It’s a good time to be a sheet metal worker.”

Much of the public funding for these projects comes from legislation passed by the Biden administration: the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Due to the unprecedented role labor has played in the passage and assembly of those laws, companies hoping to take advantage of funding and tax incentives are being pushed to build with strong labor standards in place, bringing good, union jobs to projects breaking ground from coast to coast.

Importantly, Parks pointed out, these jobs require a consistent sheet metal presence, keeping our members at work as technology advances, during retooling and reorganization, and during outages and shutdowns. And the specific skills and crafts required on such projects cover nearly all the sheet metal positions that SMART represents: from frontline supervisors, to testers and balancers, to welders, to everyone else.

“If you can imagine balancing a project that could require 100 balancers — geographically, you may only have 100 balancers in two states,” he explained. “So we’re going to be challenged to make sure we tool up our members so that they’re prepared to take care of these projects.”

The bounty of work on the horizon has created an unprecedented moment of opportunity. According to Parks, the current number of megaprojects breaking ground means one can almost make a projection 10 years out — a far cry from the post-2008 years, when SMART leadership balked at speculating even two or three years into the future. But with that opportunity comes new responsibility.

“We are not going to be able to apprentice our way into the workforce we need to meet these demands — we are not going to be able to do things the way we have always done it in the past, period,” explained SMART General President Michael Coleman. “We have got to put an exceptional focus on organizing, recruiting and retaining in every community.”

SMART members and local unions know the differences between a union career and a nonunion gig: stability, family-sustaining pay and benefits, solidarity and safety on the job, to name only a few. Now, with hundreds of huge jobs breaking ground from Oregon to Atlanta — on top of SMART local unions’ core work — the time is now to bring members into our union.

“When it comes to organizing and recruiting, we’re organizing shops, we’re organizing projects — folks who want to be union sheet metal workers, we’ll bring them in,” Parks explained. “If they’re in an apprenticeship program that may not be a sheet metal apprenticeship program, we’re bringing them in so they have the best chance of success moving forward. If someone comes in as a nonunion journeyperson, that’s great too — we want everyone.”

Many of these projects may provide SMART members in other locations with the opportunity to travel for work. For more information on traveling to jobsites, contact your local business manager and visit the SMART sheet metal job bank.