Archive for the ‘Leadership Messages’ Category

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Mourns the passing of Richard Trumka

Statement from SMART on the passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

On this hard and difficult day, our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Richard Trumka. President of the AFL-CIO since 2009, Trumka brought with him his immense reserve of experience, grit and know-how from his time as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

A third-generation coal miner from western Pennsylvania, he began working in the mines at age 19 and supported himself while studying for his law degree at Villanova University. In 1982, he became president of the UMWA, where he fought tirelessly for mine workers.

He dedicated his life’s work to creating a nation that would leave no worker behind and serve as a society that rewards hard work. Richard Trumka never forgot who he was working for, nor did he forget the working-class principals for which he was fighting.

SMART joins our brothers and sisters across the labor movement and working people across the United States — and around the world — in mourning his loss.  His life’s work will continue, as we all continue the fight to ensure the hard work and sacrifices made by America’s working families are rewarded.

Trumka was a keynote speaker at the 2019 SMART General Convention. Click below to view a highlight from his address to more than 1200 convention delegates.

I Got Your Back: We Support and Look Out for Each Other

At our last convention in 2019, SMART took a hard look at how our fellow brothers and sisters are treated at the worksite and the impact that treatment has on all of us and the industries we work in.

We changed the language of our Constitution to make it more inclusive of all our sisters and brothers. For the first time, we added conduct that is harassing, hazing, bullying or discriminating as chargeable offenses under Article 17 of our Constitution, which shows our determination to ensure our union provides a safe and welcoming environment for each and every member.

We have been mentoring each other for generations, and many of us have had the good fortune to have a mentor help us along the way, whether it be a journeyperson you were assigned to during your apprenticeship, or a seasoned conductor who ensured that you started off at work safe and free from injury.

This month, we launch the “I Got Your Back” campaign, which asks each and every one of us to stand up and look out for our sisters and brothers under the banner of union solidarity. This solidarity strikes at the very core of our roots and was the reason our union and the labor movement came together in the first place. In our early years, we served as a safe haven for generations of workers seeking to be free from exploitation. This union is where our members preserved their sense of dignity, and today we will continue that tradition by reaffirming those values.

This campaign, detailed in the “Special Focus” section of this issue of the Members’ Journal, is based on an awareness that workplace discrimination and harassment happens, and it is up to each of us to prevent it from occurring in all its forms to our sisters and brothers – those whom we joined together with to promote a better life for ourselves and our families.

The idea of mentorship, and one member helping another, harkens back to the earliest days of the labor movement and to the apprenticeship programs that differentiate union trades from all others. This is nothing new. We have been mentoring each other for generations, and many of us have had the good fortune to have a mentor help us along the way, whether it be a journeyperson you were assigned to during your apprenticeship, or a seasoned conductor who ensured that you started off at work safe and free from injury.

Do you have a mentor who has stood up and had your back in the past? Someone who was there for you during tough times or when you were learning on the job? This is an opportunity to recognize them for their support and pay it forward. This is the time to live up to the example they set for us by doing the same for other members. Let’s make and be the difference that keeps our union standing up for the ideals and values we represent.

Fraternally,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

Growing Support for Unions Offers New Opportunities to Grow Our Movement

Now is the time to capitalize on growth in the union sector. For the first time in my lifetime, we have a true champion in the White House who is pushing for the labor movement. In only his first 100 days in office, President Biden mentioned unions in his speeches 62 times. This compares to President Obama talking about unions 89 times in his first full term.

In only his first 100 days in office, President Biden mentioned unions in his speeches 62 times. This compares to President Obama talking about unions 89 times in his first full term.

I make this comparison because now is the time to step up efforts to build and expand the union movement. We are seeing the rebirth of the middle class, which was built on union wages. This can’t be done with politics alone. We need to take advantage of the current public sentiment that is in favor of unions. Not since the 1930’s have unions had an approval rating this high. In 1936, the approval rating for unions was 72% and now we are at 68%. Today, we have prime-time television showcasing construction workers. America is fascinated with real people with real jobs and that is what we do. From freight and passenger rail workers, to bus drivers, to production shops, to construction — we build and run America.

So, how do we capitalize on this sentiment?

The current infrastructure bill would be a good start. This legislation would create thousands of jobs for union members. As stated in my last Journal article, these jobs are not just roads and bridges. The infrastructure bill would also fund retrofitting of public buildings, including schools and colleges. It would include modernizing our nation’s rail systems for both freight and passenger rail. We have already seen new funding for public schools to upgrade HVAC systems and modernize old and outdated buildings.

Now is the time to regain the rightful place that unions — and the priorities of working families — should and will have in our countries.

We need to take action now at the local level to make sure that we have the needed skilled crafts-people to fill these jobs. We have seen an increasing number of job bank calls across the country. These are the areas that we need to focus on to gain membership. We need to organize in these areas, not only so we can fill the call for workers on these large projects, but also for all the other contractors and ancillary work that will come with each large project.

We need to open up our apprenticeship programs to train more workers. We need to get out in the public and advertise who we are and what we do. We need to work with our schools to get high school kids interested in the trades. We need to work with our contractors to make sure they have the skilled workforce to go into new markets.

Now is the time to regain the rightful place that unions — and the priorities of working families — should and will have in our countries.

The future is bright, but only if we continue to work to make it so. I look forward to what we will forge together for our children and future generations of workers.

Fraternally,

Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

National Contract Negotiations Ongoing

2017 Agreement Remains in Effect

IIn recent months, some have asked, “Why am I working without a contract?” The simple answer is: “You are not working without a contract.” Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), a contract never expires, it is only amended or changed. This means all working rules, conditions and pay rates must remain in place (status quo) until such time rail labor ratifies a new, or should I say, an amended agreement.

Sometimes this can be a long process under the Act — if you still have your copy of the January/February TD News (it’s also available as a PDF on our website), there were two pages devoted to explaining the ins-and-outs of the national negotiation process. It is not uncommon for the negotiations to take time, and it should come as no surprise that the carriers are not beating down our doors to ensure you get a well-deserved pay raise as soon as possible.

Some have also asked, why don’t we have a contract yet? COVID-19 has definitely played a role in delays as it made it impossible to put 100-plus people from both our 10-union Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) and the carriers in one room to negotiate in our traditional methods. Additionally, our coalition previously notified the membership of our respective organizations that thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

Thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

As of this date, nothing has changed. As COVID restrictions are now being lifted, your negotiating committee looks forward to being able to once again meet face to face at the bargaining table with the carriers where we hope it will be much more productive than video meetings.

Negotiations are complex and involve a number of consultants and working groups that are reviewing economic data, health and welfare issues, and in some instances impacts and/or costs to either side of the equation.

We must keep in mind that an agreement by its very nature requires both sides to actually agree. How often do you agree with what your railroad does?

Now put all the railroads in one room with most of labor sitting on the other side of the table — it becomes a laborious process, to say the least. But the RLA will serve its purpose, and the parties will eventually hash out a deal. In the meantime, everything in your agreements that are currently in effect must remain fully intact — your contract hasn’t expired. Please note the bold language below from your 2017 National Agreement:

This Agreement shall be construed as a separate agreement by and on behalf of each of said carriers and their employees represented by the organization signatory hereto, and shall remain in effect through December 31, 2019 and thereafter until changed or modified in accordance with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, as amended.

The “term of this agreement” was defined to run from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2019. The framers of the agreement were simply establishing the dates and time period for purposes of pay raises, and nothing is construed to leave anyone under the RLA and our agreements “without a contract.”

It is worth noting that negotiations for the 2017 agreement began with the filing of Section 6 notices in December 2014, and it then took 34 months before a tentative agreement was reached in October 2017 — that’s a period of nearly three years and there wasn’t a global pandemic to work through. The process does take time!

Another thing to note — only railroaders and airline employees fall under the Railway Labor Act. Airline pilots and flight attendants feel your frustrations when wanting to exercise a strike action against a carrier, the same as some of you probably do. We are a very specialized group and are governed under a very different set of rules than most other union workers.

The National Rail Contract negotiations are not the only thing on the agenda at this point in time, either. We have two other major national issues that are contract-related going at the same time, with the same railroads with whom we have to negotiate a national agreement.

One is the crew-consist moratorium dispute, which was arbitrated this month in Sacramento, Calif., on June 15th and 16th and was one of the largest groups I have ever seen in one arbitration session. Another major issue is our current health and welfare dispute, scheduled to be arbitrated Aug. 31 in Washington D.C. As I am sure you would agree, it is not easy to negotiate the direction of a new national agreement going forward into the future when we are having serious difficulties even agreeing with the carriers on what is in our previously agreed to contracts.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you have and setting the stage to thrive in the future.

Some have asked why don’t I update them more frequently about the status of negotiations? First of all, we, the 10-union coalition, won’t negotiate via the media and will keep our game plans private within the union negotiating team. Football coaches do not go to the media talking about what plays they are going to run and what their strategies are before a game or as it is being played out. We cannot do that here either. I would also love to notify everybody anytime it looked like something positive was going to happen regarding a contract, but it would wear you out emotionally, especially if those positive possibilities never came to fruition. Furthermore, all the union presidents in this coalition have agreed that we will only update the membership collectively as one voice through joint updates so there is no confusion that we stand together in solidarity.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you now have and setting the stage to thrive in the future. We are proving every day that solidarity is the only way to accomplish our goals in all issues, contractual or safety-related, on behalf of the membership.

We have accomplished a lot in a very short time, battled through a pandemic and an economic downturn, and are poised to set the stage for the future of the nation’s freight rail industry in these negotiations. The updates will come in due time.

Until the CBC releases our next joint report, remain assured that your negotiators and leaders will remain as stong and proud as each and every one of you who has stepped up to the plate to make our union that much stronger in the name of safety, solidarity or both.

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Moving Forward Together

Brothers and sisters,

As lockdowns are lifted and pandemic restrictions are eased across Canada, we must continue to remain vigilant. With this in mind, Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) have joined together with the broader labour movement and businesses to launch “Faster Together,” a campaign to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated. The goal is to work together to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and help accelerate the recovery from this pandemic.

The recent discoveries of human remains at or near Indigenous residential schools for children in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have shaken the country. These horrific discoveries call out for a full reckoning with Canada’s colonial history.

We are closer to the end than we are to the beginning. The faster we get vaccinated, the faster we can get back together. As vaccines are distributed across the country, we will be encouraging our members to get whatever vaccine may be available in their areas. We all want to resume the gatherings we took for granted prior to the pandemic. The resumption of some semblance of normalcy cannot come too soon.

We need to move forward in other ways as well. The recent discoveries of human remains at or near Indigenous residential schools for children in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have shaken the country. These horrific discoveries call out for a full reckoning with Canada’s colonial history. The residential schools and the crimes that were committed there are a stain on our collective conscience.

We must come to terms with our past in an honest and compassionate way, and we must seek justice for those who have suffered. We must call on our federal, provincial and territorial governments to prioritize their commitment to truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and to complete a full investigation into all Indigenous residential schools in Canada. Committing to reconciliation means confronting the atrocities of the past so that they are never allowed to happen again.

The CBTU has taken its own first steps down the path to reconciliation. As part of the CBTU’s “Building Together” program, Virtual Indigenous Training has been developed to help increase awareness of Indigenous peoples and their culture. Since its launch, hundreds of union leaders across the country have taken the training. SMART’s leadership is committed to promoting this training, as well as honouring the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports. We remain steadfast in our commitment to building a better Canada with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

The truth about our nation’s history needs to be fully acknowledged and addressed. The time for action is now. We must move forward together!

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society for counselling support available at 1-800-721-0066, or the National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.

In solidarity, I remain, fraternally yours,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

First 100 days a victory

We have long heard the phrase, “Elections have consequences.” This past election reflects the concrete truth behind the power of your vote and how it can be used as a force for positive change.Nowhere is it more apparent for many members than in the gains made for working families in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that the Biden Administration, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have succeeded in passing. This piece of legislation put people and workers on the agenda by restoring the health of our nation — our economic and our physical health. Because of the change in the White House, as well as the slim pro-worker majority in Congress, the elected officials SMART endorsed were able to secure $86 billion in federal financial assistance to protect the retirement benefits of workers and retirees in critical and declining multiemployer pension plans.

Thanks to the victories obtained in the 2020 election, we are seeing relief for working families. We see legislation that finally benefits those who built America, and not the 1 percent…

Make no mistake, SMART’s Sheet Metal National Pension Fund is not among those listed as financially troubled. As a side note, SMART-TD railroad members mostly rely on Railroad Retirement. Over a decade ago, our leaders began addressing shortfalls in the retirement system that were being predicted, produced through no fault of the nation’s workforce. Due to the effects of the 2000 – 2001 recession, then 2008 – 2009 financial crisis and lax bankruptcy laws, Wall Street CEOs reversed their pension promise made to their employees while keeping their golden parachutes. We saw what the disastrous effects of these trends would look like and sacrificed to ensure our retirement funds would be secured for now and for future generations of members.

The retirement security included in the ARP is without any of the onerous strings that were previously put on the table by Senate Republicans and the past administration when pension aid was being considered. No 11-fold premium increase. No additional union or employer fees. No retiree tax/benet cuts. No devastating plan requirements.

After a lifetime of hard work, working people deserve to retire with dignity. We are proud of our negotiated multiemployer pension plans, which have provided retirement income security for millions of working people for decades.

However, since the 1980s, multiemployer plans have been jeopardized because of a series of bad policy decisions. Unfair trade deals decimated domestic industries, reckless deregulation toccurred in trucking and housing, and pension plan tax policy all were contributing factors.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the dire situation for these plans and reinforced the need for immediate action. Last year’s layoffs across every sector of the American economy resulted in an unprecedented loss of plans’ contribution income.

Thanks to the victories obtained in the 2020 election, we are seeing relief for working families. We see legislation that finally benefits those who built America, and not the 1 percent who have received bailout after bailout and mammoth income tax cuts, only to leave the rest of us holding the bag. This Administration has held a laser-like focus on the other 99 percent of us and has committed to uphold the campaign promises from the past election. As you will see in this issue of the Members’ Journal, this includes COBRA assistance for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic as well as funding to ensure our brothers and sisters at Amtrak can return to work. It also equips sheet metal members with new work opportunities through funding to retrofit antiquated HVAC systems in our schools and public buildings. These are only a fraction of the pro-worker agenda items acted upon in this Administration’s first 100 days.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration and the Democratically led Congress, millions of Americans who worked their entire adult life to secure a safe retirement will have peace of mind.

Fraternally,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

Now is the time to build back union

The Biden-Harris Administration’s new infrastructure proposal may be the most significant investment in new American jobs since FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. The nation’s infrastructure has been left in shambles for far too long due to years of gridlock in Washington, D.C. With a new administration and Congress turning its focus to rebuilding America, now is the time for real action that addresses these needs and helps working families.

The Biden-Harris infrastructure proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, focuses on more than roads and bridges, which may be the first words that come to mind when the term “infrastructure” is mentioned. It also includes modernizing the nation’s rail system to meet passenger rail capacity taken for granted by nations in Europe, and to better compete with China’s ultramodern freight rail system. In addition, the plan would fund the retrofitting of public buildings, including schools and colleges, so that air systems are up-to-date, efficient and safe for occupants in a world where the next pandemic could be right around the corner.

The American Jobs Plan will provide critical investments needed to modernize the nation’s energy delivery systems, including power generation facilities that will employ thousands of sheet metal workers working to ensure the availability of affordable energy for all Americans.

The energy sector is another area that has significant infrastructure needs, as well as pent-up and growing demand for the safe delivery of energy to cities, businesses and homes. America’s current energy infrastructure — including the generation, storage, transmission and distribution of energy — is inadequate to meet our current needs, let alone future demands. The American Jobs Plan will provide critical investments needed to modernize the nation’s energy delivery systems, including power generation facilities that will employ thousands of sheet metal workers working to ensure the availability of affordable energy for all Americans.

Overall, our infrastructure needs are vast and will only continue to grow without decisive action from Washington,D.C.

Due to the Biden-Harris Administration’s support for high labor standards, the American Jobs Plan will also secure a broad pathway to the middle class for hundreds of thousands of Americans, through new union jobs in all sectors of the trades, and by putting existing members to work. It will also ensure that the next generation of American construction workers remain among the best-trained, safest and well-equipped in the world.

This support for strong labor standards shows the Biden-Harris Administration understands that the labor movement is the best avenue to easing pandemic-related job and financial insecurity that has placed a heavy burden on so many working families. For union members, this will be a major employment shot in the arm, with a plethora of new work opportunities in the immediate future — and the kind of jobs that keep members busy for years to come.

The time is now to take action. Contact your Senators and Congresspersons about this important pending infrastructure legislation. What we do today will lay the groundwork for future generations of Americans to compete in a rapidly changing world.

Fraternally,

Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

Time to rise to the challenge

As we turn from enduring a difficult winter and the challenges of a pandemic that has tested our resilience and our country for more than a year, our organization has continued to press ahead to better serve you.

The core purpose of SMART-TD is to aggressively and vigorously defend the safety and well-being of workers and to promptly field the concerns of its membership. Ever since the installation of my administration in 2019, we have been moving ahead to make dynamic changes internally and externally to the union. We want the services you are entitled to as a union member to be delivered promptly and effectively to your satisfaction, pandemic or not.

We want the services you are entitled to as a union member to be delivered promptly and effectively to your satisfaction, pandemic or not.

To this end, a number of technology-related projects have been completed. More are in the works — all undertaken with the intent that we provide the best value and representation that your union can offer and that you deserve as a part of SMART-TD.

Some of these include:

  • The creation of online Safety Condition and Technology Failure Reports to properly document and address membership issues and concerns in a more timely manner. We have received thousands of submissions with a vast majority of these concerns successfully addressed by officers since their launch.
  • Significant improvements to the SMART phone app, with more on the way, which will provide even more functionality, utility and information. These include new features such as messaging functions, virtual membership cards, a listing of Local, State Legislative and General Committee information and contact options to members.
  • A revamped website is in the works that will improve and expand members’ experience to find answers and information that they need.
  • After receiving numerous requests, we have recently created a membership option to receive the TD News electronically instead of print in efforts to reduce delivery time while saving production and mailing costs.
  • We are also in the process of expanding Field Service assistance for local treasurers by providing additional representatives who will be available during select evening and weekend hours.
  • We have increased our efforts of communicating with our members and officers, soliciting ideas and suggestions via personal phone conversations and surveys. This includes responding to each and every phone call and email to those that have contacted my office with issues, concerns or questions. As I have stated several times, I value each and every member and your thoughts and ideas are important to me.

These are but a small example of the many projects we are working on, but few are more important than the efforts underway to adapt and improve our efforts to educate members and officers.

While we are disappointed that 2021 marks the second straight year we have not been able to have an annual regional meeting due to COVID-19, we’re making adjustments. We plan to have smaller regionally focused training sessions when and where it is safe to do so. We’re also in the process of establishing virtual training online through the SMART University initiative that’s being developed. These will provide officer training and resources, both visually with videos as well as with supporting documents and presentations.

Externally, we are working at being more visible as well.

Legislative directors in 14 states are working to get two-person crew bills introduced after our successful case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They’re also working on fighting back against Precision Scheduled SPRING 2021 5 Railroading (PSR) with 10 states working on bills to limit train lengths.

Legislative directors in 14 states are working to get two-person crew bills introduced after our successful case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

No doubt, it’s been a rough period, but our team is built for facing adversity, and more importantly, have the experience and determination to address it.

Many members have been furloughed at the whim of carriers thanks to PSR. We are fighting back by telling all of those who would listen about the increased danger posed by this mode of operation and about carriers wanting to cut freight crews. The in-depth article that Vice Magazine put together in late March is just one example. We are looking to expand these conversations and are reaching out to additional media outlets, as well as each and every state capital. We now have doors held open, often receiving invitations to tell our side of the story and have our voices heard on Capitol Hill, which is a complete reversal of what we have had to endure the past four years.

There’s much to be positive about as we roll ahead. Amtrak members who had been furloughed because of the pandemic are back on the job thanks to the American Recovery Plan championed by Joe Biden. The American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill that Biden unveiled March 31 contains many of the good, transportation-related provisions that last year’s H.R. 2 had, such as bus and transit operator protection and mandating two-person freight crews. We’ll need to all work together, be active and have our collective voices heard loud and clear to get this done, but we can do it.

We’re going to keep making your union the best it can be by serving, protecting and responding to you. You are the union. We are here for you. Let’s go!

Please stay safe out there, and God bless.

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Video: The Benefits of American Rescue Plan for SMART Members

In this month’s video address from SMART General President Joseph Sellers, he looks at the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan.

The plan does more than provide direct cash relief through payments to working Americans and resources for COVID-19 vaccination efforts. This critical legislation also provides long-sought help for multiemployer pension plans, puts Amtrak members back to work, boosts transit funding, provides COBRA assistance to jobless workers and funds a round of mitigation efforts to help get America’s schoolchildren back in the classroom through funds for air system monitoring and new HVAC retrofit work that will create sheet metal jobs.

 

Fifth Circuit vacates injunction in crew-consist case

Today, Aug. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued its decision in BNSF et al v. SMART-TD (Case No. 20-10162) concerning crew consist.

This decision is a long-awaited victory for the Union. The appellate court vacated the injunction that forced SMART-TD General Committees to bargain over crew consist, despite the existence of moratoria which bar such negotiation.

SMART-TD has always read those moratoria clauses to bar the service of Section 6 Notices to negotiate over crew consist until the last protected employee voluntarily separated from service. Indeed, that is the very reason for their existence.

But despite the long-standing nature of these clauses, the carriers presented a new and novel theory that the moratoria did not actually bar crew-consist negotiations.

The carriers tested this theory out by filing suit against SMART-TD in October 2019 and moving for a preliminary injunction in December 2019. In their request for an injunction, the carriers asked a district court in Texas to force SMART-TD to bargain now in spite of the moratoria. That court issued its decision on February 11, 2020, finding that even though the dispute over the moratoria was minor, and no arbitral determination had been made, SMART-TD was required to bargain now.

Under the RLA, minor disputes must be resolved through arbitration, not Section 6 bargaining. In the 22-page opinion, the appellate court walked through the various bases on which an injunction can be issued in Railway Labor Act (RLA) disputes. The 5th Circuit Court found that none existed here.

Rather, it concluded that the carriers had failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided under the the RLA arbitration regarding the moratoria clauses.

SMART endorses Joe Biden for president

Statement from SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. July 1, 2020

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) is pleased to endorse Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States, following a unanimous vote of its General Executive Council.

Biden

The endorsement was informed by discussions with and feedback from SMART members and leaders from across the United States who met to discuss SMART issues and which candidate best supports them. Over the past four years, SMART leadership has also met with all the major presidential candidates from both parties, including the incumbent president, and had meaningful dialogue with them regarding issues impacting SMART members.

SMART has engaged with and listened to our members from coast to coast about their views and opinions regarding our union, their jobs and current events that affect their future. This effort was launched to ensure members have a say in shaping the course of our union as it proceeds to advance the needs and viewpoints of the membership.

Biden has a long history of engaging with SMART members and working families in both the sheet metal and transportation industries. The endorsement decision was based on Biden’s strong support of the concerns most important to our members, including the need for two-person railroad crews, retirement and pension security, protection of prevailing wages, and a prioritization of workplace safety. He also is dedicated to acting on a plan for real infrastructure work to enhance employment opportunities for current and future members in the industries SMART represents. SMART members have made it clear they can no longer wait after four years of empty promises for new infrastructure initiatives from the current administration.

From his early years working with local sheet metal workers as a County Commissioner in Delaware, to his frequent meetings with SMART Amtrak conductors during his commute back and forth to Washington, D.C., Joe Biden has been acutely aware of and engaged with the issues on the minds of our members.

After a series of discussions with Biden’s campaign staff, where members’ feedback and concerns were shared with the candidate, Vice President Biden took the time to respond with a video outlining his positions on the issues. His impassioned message in this video proves that Biden is the clear choice for our union and the membership.

SMART is highly engaged in the political process to ensure our issues are advanced and our members’ livelihoods are protected. We also strive to ensure union leadership is transparent and clear with our members when it comes to decisions in the electoral arena. We work to advance our members’ issues by advocating and educating on their behalf while supporting candidates, regardless of party, who stand with SMART members and for issues important to all working families.

SMART leadership statement on George Floyd, protests

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Protests in both the United States and Canada have been used to focus upon racial justice in our communities. SMART stands united with those who are committed to peacefully work towards a racially just society that provides the freedom of opportunity to all.

Many of our fellow citizens are hurting. We cannot be silent in the quest to achieve much-needed social change. We equally stand against those who uphold racism, bigotry and violence. Make no mistake, fighting racism is a labor issue. Bigotry and racism have been used to prevent working people from securing a voice in the workplace for the course of our existence. It is used to divide and conquer by pitting workers against each other. This cannot continue and we must focus on real change and for reforms that address issues of racial and economic inequality.

Over the course of this pandemic, there has been a shift toward caring and empathy. Together, we protect each other. We want you to know that you are my sisters and brothers, that you are my community, that you matter to me! We were moved by our brother, Pastor Paul, “The only reason to look down on someone is to give them a hand up.”

Through our strategic plan we continue our enhanced commitment for systematic change for women and people of color within the industries we represent through our actions and dedicated resources across the United States, Canada and our Labor Movement. We will continue this path and focus to bring about real change. We encourage all members, our industry partners and our communities to join in these efforts.

One life lost is one life too many. Our deepest sympathies and heartbreak lie with the family of George Floyd as well as the many others whose lives were tragically cut short before him. We urge all to remember them through a peaceful struggle towards racial equality for all and we condemn those engaging in violence, the destruction of property and the loss of jobs.

Early this week, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO was damaged during clashes in Washington, D.C. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, “We will clean up the glass, sweep away the ashes and keep doing our part to bring a better day out of this hour of darkness and despair.”

“Our work and dedication to the prosperity and freedom for all working families will continue.”

Fraternally,