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SMART IL Locals Delivering Three Truckloads of Water to Texans in Need

SMART Local 20 Ships $2k in Plumbing Supplies to TX Members

CAROL STREAM, IL – SMART Illinois Locals 73, 219 and 265 have organized a “Texas water drive” to gather donations of bottled water and ship truckloads to families in Texas who lack access to clean water in the wake of the state’s recent winter storms and power outages.

As Texas’ power grid collapsed during frigid temperatures, causing some households to also lose access to clean water due to interrupted supplies or burst pipes, SMART Local 265 members began asking what they could do to help. They communicated with other members of the union in Texas and were told people needed clean water more than anything else.

“I hope it helps them with a small amount of relief to have the very basic necessity of water,” said Tom Syron, a Local 265 journeyperson who lives in Plainfield, Ill. Syron reached out to his local union president to see what they could do to assist and then helped spearhead the relief effort.

Local 265, which represents members serving the collar counties outside of Lake and Cook in Northeastern Illinois, launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of the specific need for water among its Texas members, as well as the community at large, and began to solicit donations. In less than 48 hours, the union mobilized to secure 16 pallets of water and two 26-foot trucks. Local 73 soon joined the effort, filling a third truck with donated water bottles. The three trucks rolled out from the Chicago suburbs for Texas early Wednesday morning, carrying a total of more than 30,000 bottles.

In Indiana, SMART Local 20 members purchased and donated more than $2,000 in residential plumbing supplies and fittings and shipped it all to SMART locals in Texas. The supplies will be given to members facing significant plumbing repairs after pipes froze and leaked during power outages.

“I could not be prouder of our members, our friends, our families and local employers that have contributed to this effort,” said SMART Local 265 President/Business Manager John Daniel. “We stand together when our members or communities need support, whether that’s in Illinois, Texas, or elsewhere. Actions like Tom’s make it very clear, the members are the union!”

“We stand together when our members or communities need support, whether that’s in Illinois, Texas, or elsewhere.”

– SMART Local 265 President/
Business Manager John Daniel

Daniel said donations came from hard-working members of the three SMART locals, as well as area employers, including John Hancock (which does recordkeeping for the union’s pension plan), The Dobbs Group of Greystone Consulting, Calibre CPA Group, Segal Consulting and Baum Sigman Auerbach & Neuman LTD.

SMART has more than 14,000 members in Illinois and over 7,500 members in Texas. Last Friday, the union contacted its locals across the country and quickly organized a national peer-to-peer text bank in which individual union activists from outside Texas reached out to members in Texas and asked how they were doing, did they need any help, and if so what would be most helpful. The text banking was critical to assessing what was actually happening on the ground, which Texas communities needed the most help, and where the union could set up staging areas for donated supplies as they arrived.

SMART Celebrates Black History Month

This February, SMART proudly joins with citizens across the United States and Canada to celebrate Black History Month. We honor the contributions of generations of Black scientists, activists, military members, public servants, writers, artists and more who have helped build our nations, shaped the labor and civil rights movements and worked tirelessly for justice and equality for all.

Blacks have also been groundbreaking labor organizers and developed numerous inventions that had major impacts across our economies, including in the North American rail industry. Here are just a few examples:

  • Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave in Alabama. He became a railroad employee and introduced two improvements to the automatic railroad car coupler, or Jenny coupler, in 1897 and 1899, after losing a leg using the dangerous link-and-pin coupler. Using interlocking jaws, it was the first automatic coupler that allowed rail workers to avoid having to risk limbs while manually coupling cars. Beard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, in 2006 for this achievements.
  • A. Philip Randolph

    A. Philip Randolph was an American labor leader and civil rights activist. In 1925, he organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African-American labor union. In 1963, Randolph was the head of the March on Washington, at which Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.

  • Stanley Grizzle was born in 1918 in Toronto to Jamaican immigrants. He was elected president of his local of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and pushed the Canadian Pacific Railway to open management ranks to blacks. He was also a leader in Canada’s civil rights movement of the 1950s and worked with the Joint Labour Committee to Combat Racial Intolerance.
  • Garrett Augustus Morgan invented a three-way non-electric automatic semaphore stop sign in 1923, which was the precursor to three-light electric traffic signals.
  • Granville Woods

    Elijah McCoy invented an automatic lubricator for oiling steam engines in 1872. It spread oil evenly over a train’s engine while it was still moving. This invention allowed for trains to run on long trips without stopping.

  • Granville Woods, known as the “Black Edison,” was a railroad fireperson and locomotive engineer who invented a telegraph system in 1887 that was used to communicate between trains and tower telegraphers to advise the distance between moving trains. He also invented overhead electric conducting lines in 1888 — now known as catenary wires; and a railroad air brake in 1902.

This year, Black History Month comes during a global pandemic that has hit minority communities the hardest, and shortly after domestic terrorists, including many self-professed white supremacists, attacked the U.S. Capitol and tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power following a presidential election.

Now, more than ever, our union is dedicated to advocating for both economic and racial justice, and to working for transportation and sheet metal industries that are inclusive and welcoming for all.

We face the challenges posed by the pandemic and by appalling attacks on our democracy the same way we approach shared workplace concerns: By standing together, mobilizing and organizing for a better future.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted in a December 1961 speech delivered at that year’s AFL-CIO convention, the struggles and challenges of the labor movement are tightly intertwined with those of African Americans and the civil rights movement: “Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and health and welfare measures…”

Now, more than ever, our union is dedicated to advocating for both economic and racial justice, and to working for transportation and sheet metal industries that are inclusive and welcoming for all.

PRO Act Would Strengthen U.S. Labor Laws, Protect Workers

American workers have a legal right to organize and form a union under federal labor law. Unfortunately, U.S. labor laws are some of the mostly weakly enforced among all industrialized nations, meaning anti-union employers too often take advantage of lax enforcement and violate labor law with little consequence.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, aims to change all of this, empowering workers to exercise their rights to organize and bargain collectively. The legislation passed the U.S. House in Feb. 2020, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let it come to the Senate floor. With Democrats now in control of the Senate, the legislation is expected to move forward.

“U.S. labor law is in desperate need of an overhaul. It both needs updating to reflect the changing nature of our economy, and strengthening to ensure workers’ fundamental right to organize is protected.”

– SMART General President Joseph Sellers

“U.S. labor law is in desperate need of an overhaul,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers, “It both needs updating to reflect the changing nature of our economy, and strengthening to ensure workers’ fundamental right to organize is protected.”

The act would amend decades-old U.S. labor laws to give workers more power at work and add penalties for companies that violate labor law. Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has no authority to levy fines against companies that break the law, such as firing a worker who initiatives a union organizing drive.

The PRO Act would also:

  • Help ensure workers who win union regognition can reach a first contract quickly.
  • End employers’ ability to hire permanent replacements to punish striking workers.
  • Enhance the NLRB’s power to fine companies that violate labor law, up to $50,000 per violation.
  • Weaken so-called “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that allow employees who benefit from union contracts to choose not to join or pay union dues.
  • Grant collective bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of workers who currently don’t have them.
  • Allow more workers currently classified (or mis-classified…) as contractors to be considered employees for purposes of union organizing, opening the door for “gig workers” at companies like Uber and DoorDash to join or form unions.

“The PRO Act is a generational opportunity that will transform America’s labor landscape and marshal economic recovery for working people,” wrote AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in an op-ed that appeared on CNN.com in January 2021. “The PRO Act is also an economic stimulus bill. Unions give more of us the collective power to win better pay and safer working conditions, putting additional money in workers’ pockets, driving demand and creating jobs.”