The recent storms in the Texas, the Gulf Coast and Florida and fires in California affected many of our SMART Brothers and Sisters. We should not forget that the recovery is still underway, and it will continue for a long time to come.
While truly devastating, these combined events have also shown us at our Union best: members coming together, giving of themselves to help each other regardless of the challenge or the circumstances.
Just a week or two after the hurricanes struck, I had the opportunity to visit with members, local leaders and contractors in Houston and Beaumont, Texas, and in Florida.
Amid this terrible destruction, I was proud to witness, firsthand, the truly inspiring resilience of our affected members and their families and neighbors.
We saw the belongings, the neighborhoods, the entire life stories of countless families in ruins. In Texas, the cleanup had just barely begun, but debris was already piled high on sidewalks and driveways while wrecked automobiles filled the roads, waiting for removal. In Florida, many members and contractors were stranded without power, and some also lacked even basic supplies.
Emotion turns to action
The visible toll, especially on fellow SMART families—many facing a total loss—is something that would bring a surge of emotion to anyone who escaped unharmed.
And as Union members, how did people respond to that tide of emotion? It drove you—SMART members across the U.S. and Canada—into action.
Members of our Union, even some who were facing the adversity of storm damage that affected their own homes and lives, quickly traveled to the Houston area to help in many ways.
Some began by checking in on other members and on retired members who had settled in the ruined communities. Others purchased truckloads of supplies and drove hundreds and even thousands of miles to deliver the vital items—like water, bleach, diapers and even box fans, so vital to drying things out.
This outpouring of support has been overwhelming and makes a statement about the character of the men and women of OUR Union. In good times and bad, we stand up with each other and for each other.
That includes our funds, too. It’s been all-hands-on-deck with planning and assistance from the SMART Disaster Relief Fund, as well as SASMI, SMOHIT and NSSP efforts for their plan participants.
Our help for one another is not a one-time effort. As this issue was being finalized, our coordination and action plan is engaging for victims of other storms in Puerto Rico, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi as well as the devastating fires in the west.
As Union members, it’s what we do: we work for the common good.
Help for another challenge
That same character, that willingness to work not only to advance the cause of working families but all workers who might need assistance, is also at the heart of a new SMART recruitment program that I am proud to announce in this issue of The Members’ Journal.
We call it SMART Heroes because these men and women are members of the U.S. military nearing the end of their service—often without firm leads on civilian careers or jobs.
The program will provide training in the sheet metal industry to enlisted men and women of the U.S. Military prior to discharge.
SMART Heroes will complement the Helmets to Hardhats program, which connects veterans—people already out of uniform—with building trades apprenticeship programs.
Upon successfully completing the training before separating from service, a SMART Heroes graduate can have an opportunity of employment at any one of the 153 SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States with direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year apprentice. We have also spoken to Helmets to Hardhats Canada and other sectors of our union.
This unique mechanism for supporting our military men and women transitioning to civilian life is also good business for signatory employers—and for our union.
Companies who employ Heroes get workers not only with skills, but with maturity—union professionals whose mettle has been well tested.
For SMART as well, we gain a solid stream for high-quality apprentices who will make our trade, our signatories and our union stronger by starting careers with both the skills and personal qualities that make them more likely to succeed long-term as workers and as members.
Our first class graduated in October (photo). The Special Focus section of the next Journal will focus on these men and women who are the first to complete this promising program.
Brothers and sisters, I thank you for the opportunity to be your General President. Whether supporting our military personnel or pitching in to assist Brothers and Sisters after terrible disasters, I am tremendously proud of our Union spirit, of our readiness to help each other and our communities. That is what we do.
Joseph Sellers, Jr.
SMART General President
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