Taking action for our families — and our futures

May 16, 2024

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