The greatest honor of my lifetime

May 4, 2023

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.