Archive for the ‘Members Journal’ Category

Sheet metal and TD members have hands in UBS Arena project

On Sept. 9, SMART General President Joseph Sellers and a delegation of union officials including SM Local 28 (NYC & Long Island- BT) Business Manager Eric Meslin, Business Manager Dante Dano from Local 137 (NYC Sign) and Alt. Vice President/General Chairperson Anthony Simon from SMART TD GCA-505 (LIRR) traveled to the UBS Arena project to tour and meet members working on that project.

UBS Arena is a $1.5 billion multipurpose arena under construction in Elmont, N.Y., next to the historic Belmont Park racetrack. Thanks to the work of SMART members from SM Local 28 (Building Trades, NYC & Long Island ), SM Local 137 (Sign) in NYC and TD members affiliated with GCA-505 (Long Island), the arena is set to open this November.

The groundbreaking for the arena was held Sept. 23, 2019, and was attended by the governor of New York along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and officials, alumni and current players from the NY Islanders, who will call the arena their home.

Unique to this project is the presence of SMART members from across the union, including Local 137 sign members who installed the giant center ice board as well as signage across the arena and in the train station newly built to handle the swarm of fans from across Long Island and the NY metropolitan area.

Much as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted work and events across the world, this arena project was no different. On March 27, 2020, construction was paused due to a state order to stop non-essential construction work until April 21. That pause was further extended several times to May 27, 2020, when construction was finally able to resume.

Unique to this project is the presence of SMART members from across the union, including Local 137 sign members who installed the giant center ice board as well as signage across the arena and in the train station newly built to handle the swarm of fans from across Long Island and the NY metropolitan area. SMART-TD members led the way in constructing the Long Island Rail Road track leading to the new station. SMART Local 28 sheet metal workers were instrumental in seeing various critical pieces come together across the facility, installing all parts of the HVAC system, including ductwork, units, fans, fire dampers and smoke purge systems. SMART members also installed architectural features, including roofing and decking, and specialty work such as kitchen equipment, lockers and toilet partitions.

Beneath the brick façade of the building is one of the most ultramodern spectator venues in the world, with large air shafts designed to safely handle the indoor air and lines of sight that allow even fans at the highest levels to feel close to the on-ice action. The concourses at the spacious arena are twice the size of those at the old Nassau Coliseum, whose dimensions this new arena replicates to preserve the feel of the old facility. The Islanders played in the previous arena from 1972 to their elimination during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Islanders’ dressing room area, built in large part by Local 28 building trades and Local 137 sign members, is a replica of the facilities at their training site, at the request of the team.

In keeping with new innovations started by other franchises in places like Foxboro, Mass., where entire sports villages were built around stadium complexes, the Islanders plan on turning the arena into a destination where fans can not only go to cheer on their local team, but also to eat, shop and find multiple sources of entertainment.

Adjacent to the arena is the first new train stop built for the Long Island RailRoad in over 50 years, thanks to the work of SMART-TD members. The new train station will be located between the Queens Village and Bellerose stations on the LIRR’s main line, straddling the Cross Island Parkway. Electric shuttle buses will serve LIRR riders traveling to games, as well as to the Belmont Park grandstand and retail village planned for the area surrounding the arena complex. The new full-time station will relieve pressure on the existing Belmont spur station during major events like the Belmont Stakes and Islander regular-season games.

In addition to providing regular service to and from the new arena and surrounding sites, the station will also serve as a commuter hub for area residents, meeting the urgent need of taking cars off the road during intense periods of rushhour travel. The parking lot north of the Belmont racetrack, which has 2,860 spaces, will be shared by commuters and arena patrons.

Building the new station required upgrades to the existing LIRR Belmont spur, including the installation of automated track switches. These upgrades will allow trains leaving the spur after an event to serve stations both east and west of Belmont – providing another post-event public transit option for attendees and facilitating the efficient flow of attendees to and from events.

Road conductors are providing all of the roadway worker protection for the third-party contractors being used to support the project.

SMART-TD track workers from Local 29 are providing all of the switch and track work to support the infrastructure around the new station, as well as the interlockings that will manipulate trains to the location. Once the project is complete, train crews and maintenance of equipment members will run and support service operations at the station.

SMART-TD track workers from Local 29 are providing all of the switch and track work to support the infrastructure around the new station.

Currently, 60 SMART Local 28 sheet metal workers are employed at the location. This includes members working at Triple S Air Systems and Eastern Metal Works performing HVAC work around the facility, including work on ducts, units, fans, fire dampers and smoke purge systems. Architectural work onsite was performed by Local 28 members working for JC Steel Corp, L Martone and Sons and Metropolitan Roof Systems. The work includes decking, metal roofing, and coping. Specialty work onsite is performed by Donco Inc., Cross Country Kitchens and A.LISS & Company. This work includes installation of toilet partitions, lockers, walk-in boxes, kitchen hoods and kitchen equipment. Testing and balancing onsite is currently being performed by All City Testing & Balancing. All of the above contractors are signatory to Local 28.

SMART Local 137 sheet metal workers fabricated and installed the massive jumbotron hoisted above center ice, thanks to members employed at Northshore Neon who also installed the center hung led display, sign letters as well the LED ribbons. The LED ribbons surrounding two levels of the stadium will be used for advertisements and keeping spectators abreast during the game. Exterior lights and signage were also installed exclusively by Local 137 sign members as well as signage across the facility.

The day after the visit to members at the UBS Arena, SMART General President Sellers spoke as the keynote speaker at the LaborPress annual celebration in the Bronx.

LaborPress is one of the largest labor news organizations in the nation. It was founded in August 2009 by LaborPress President Neal Tepel to provide a media outlet for unions and workers. Their articles regularly appear in the New York Daily News and on their website. iHeart radio’s WOR radio station features their daily reports.

LaborPress.org regularly has features on the construction and transportation industries. Most notably, LaborPress recently posted spotlight features on members from Locals 28, 137 and SMART-TD GCA-505. This also includes an op-ed in the NY Daily News from General President Sellers that called for passage of the entire infrastructure package, as well as the importance of keeping schoolchildren safe by addressing indoor air quality in schools.

During his lunchtime speech in front of an audience that included NY building trades and elected public officials, Sellers doubled down on his infrastructure points as he discussed the issues important to SMART SM and TD members, as well as other issues like the PRO Act, essential to all of labor.

“We are honored to have our general president attend this event as the keynote speaker. This event takes place in New York, where many labor leaders throughout the state will join us to hear Joe’s opinions on the labor movement and the infrastructure bills that we are fighting for in Washington,” Local 28’s Meslin said. Dano added that “this event shows that when we all stand together across the labor movement, our voices and actions are stronger than ever.” Simon summarized that “SMART has a history here in New York of standing with one another when we need each other.” Simon concluded that, “when SMART has each other’s backs in NY, it’s not just in words but in our actions.”

2021 BA Conference Featured Launch of “I Got Your Back” Campaign

Speakers and panels also focused on the importance of mentorship, moving a pro-labor agenda under the Biden administration, rail and transit safety, lessons learned from local SMART leaders and safe buildings post-COVID


Vice President Kamala Harris

SMART conducted a virtual business agents’ conference in July 2021. More than 300 local and national SMART leaders, as well as special guests that included Vice President Kamala Harris, participated in the one-day online gathering. An in-person conference had been scheduled to take place in New York City, but due to the unpredictability of the pandemic and rising COVID cases in the summer, it was changed to virtual.

The overall theme of the conference was “I Got Your Back,” with many plenary speeches and breakout sessions focused on the importance of union solidarity and working together to build a culture within SMART characterized by inclusion and mutual support.

“The past 16 months caused us to reflect on what is most important,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers in his keynote speech to the conference. “We leaned on each other to get through this crisis, and union solidarity is our foundation. That is why this year’s theme is ‘I Got Your Back’.”

“The past 16 months caused us to reflect on what is most important. We leaned on each other to get through this crisis, and union solidarity is our foundation. That is why this year’s theme is ‘I Got Your Back’.”

– SMART General President Joseph Sellers

Sellers pointed out that, at the 2019 SMART General Convention, delegates took a hard look at how their sisters and brothers were treated at work and how this impacts SMART members and industries. Delegates unanimously adopted amendments and resolutions that aimed to make the union more inclusive and added language to the SMART Constitution that makes harassment, bullying and hazing chargeable offenses.

“Now, two years later, we need action,” said Sellers. “Words in our constitution are not enough. Goals and intentions are not enough. We are putting words to action… We are asking each member to stand up and look out for our fellow sisters and brothers.”

SMART General President Joseph Sellers

SMART General President Joseph Sellers

The week of the BA conference, SMART international mailed to every local an “I Got Your Back” campaign kit that included stickers, instructions and promotional materials.

“This campaign provides our membership with the opportunity to recognize those members who were there for them — who supported them — and to pay it forward to the next generation. When members see a fellow member wearing the ‘I Got Your Back’ sticker on the jobsite, they will know they have an ally to turn to. They will know that member has their back.”

SMART General Secretary- Treasurer Joe Powell, who taught hundreds of apprentices during his time as an apprenticeship instructor at Local 206 in San Diego, underscored the importance of mentorship for SMART members.

SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell

SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell

“We have all had mentors who had our backs during our careers,” said Powell. “And it is important for us to mentor and be an ally to those entering the industry behind us.”

SMACNA President Angie Simon echoed SMART’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and mutual support in her video presentation, noting that the signatory sheet metal sector “continues to shine,” but still has room for growth when it comes to recruitment and keeping up to date with technology.

“The future of our industry is not represented by one color, one race, or one gender,” said Simon, “but will depend upon the best and brightest being drawn to our industry by our training, our craftsmanship, the economic opportunity and unrestricted opportunity to succeed.”

Many speakers noted the unprecedented challenges and stresses faced by SMART members over the past year due to the pandemic and related economic turmoil and how members had risen to these challenges time and time again.

“You are the essential workers, representing our members throughout this pandemic,” said Sellers. “You have endured shutdowns, converted hospitals for COVID care, and manufactured the air handling equipment and goods that have kept our nations running and the air we breathe safe and clean.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten

NABTU President Sean McGarvey

NABTU Pres. Sean McGarvey

SMART TD Pres. Jeremy Ferguson

Local 265 Bus. Rep. Louise Medina

Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson underscored the impacts of COVID-19 on TD members, taking a moment to remember the 19 active TD members who had died due to COVID-19 as of mid-July. Ferguson also noted that many bus operators, freight rail members and Amtrak members were furloughed early in the pandemic as schools and offices closed, businesses slowed down and tourism ceased.

He emphasized the work SMART has been doing throughout the pandemic around rail safety, rail and transit funding and coordinating with the sheet metal division to work with the Biden Administration to advance initiatives important to SMART members. He added that most Amtrak members were recalled after passage of the American Rescue Plan, which SMART actively lobbied to support.

“We are continuing to battle to keep two people on every train, following the attacks on our crew consist agreements shortly after I took office,” added Ferguson. “Most importantly, we continue to fight for workplace safety, as our union has seen a startling number of fatalities and amputations in the last two years as a result of the previous U.S. president’s administration creating what I will call a ‘deplorable safety culture’ — one where profits and shareholders are valued more than our members lives or the federal safety regulations previously written to protect them.”

“We are continuing to battle to keep two people on every train, following the attacks on our crew consist agreements shortly after I took office.”

– SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson

In a video address to the BA conference, Vice President Kamala Harris underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to standing with working families.

“President Joe Biden and I are determined to be the most pro-union administration in American history,” said Harris. She noted that the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden, allocated nearly $31 billion toward supporting transit systems and workers impacted by the pandemic, as well as strengthening pension plans for workers across industries.

“We could not have passed the American Rescue Plan without your support and leadership,” she added.

Vice President Harris also addressed bipartisan infrastructure legislation, noting that SMART members know, perhaps better than most, that America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of update. Proposed infrastructure legislation, she said, “will put Americans to work in good, union jobs, fixing our roads and our bridges and modernizing our transit system.”

Other guest speakers included American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and North America’s Building Trades (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey.

Local 265 Business Representative Louise Medina spoke to conference participants in her capacity as president of the newly formed SMART Recruitment and Retention Council. Quoting from the council’s mission statement, she said it will help guide efforts “to recruit, retain and promote diverse groups in our organization and to ensure workplace equality within our industry; and to promote respect, inclusion and safe, non-hostile work environments at all levels of SMART.”

Medina, who also serves on the SMART Women’s Committee, said the new council plans to hold meetings twice a year, hopefully in person, to discuss these issues and develop resources, trainings and other materials to support locals and regional councils in recruiting and retaining underrepresented workers. If you have questions or need information on how to affiliate with the council, email Louise Medina at louise@smart265.org.

SMART Director of Education Chris Carlough, left, and Local 285 Business Manager Bob Gougeon.

SMART Director of Governmental Affairs Steve Dodd discusses ventilation verification specification.

The “Safe Buildings Post-COVID” panel.

After the main conference plenary, delegates could choose among the following breakout sessions:

Profiles in Leadership

This session addressed fundamentals of leadership and featured interviews with local leaders discussing strategic thinking, challenges they have faced and leadership lessons learned. SMART Director of Education Chris Carlough led discussions with Local 285 Business Manager Bob Gougeon, NW Regional Council President Tim Carter and Local 265 Business Manager John Daniel.

Beyond Bias

This session featured Dushaw Hockett of SPACES introducing the concept of “implicit bias” and breaking down examples of what it can look like. The session concluded with a live Q&A session with General President Sellers and General Secretary- Treasurer Powell.

Safe Buildings Post-COVID

This session featured a panel discussing what every SMART leader needs to know about indoor air quality and proper ventilation coming out of the pandemic. Panelists included NEMIC Northeast Regional Representative Jeremy Zeedyk, ITI Field Representative Darrell Garrison, SMART Director of Governmental Affairs Steve Dodd and SMART Director of Canadian Affairs Chris Paswisty.

Infrastructure package, if passed, will make dramatic and necessary change

The bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and reconciliation package, being negotiated as of press time, presents a historic opportunity for millions of Americans and for the labor movement. If and when it is passed, it will represent the largest infrastructure investment in almost a century, with the potential to create a generation of good-paying union jobs and boost economic growth thanks to the biggest labor reforms since the days of the New Deal.

At the same time, SMART is working on making sure Congress gets this package right. That’s why it is essential that Congress passes the bipartisan infrastructure deal and reconciliation package together and that both contain strong labor and worker protections.

If and when it is passed, it will represent the largest infrastructure investment in almost a century, with the potential to create a generation of good-paying union jobs.

This means any project receiving federal support complies with a base of labor standards that include prevailing wage, registered apprentices, the elimination of misclassification and wage theft, and neutrality agreements so that workers are given a fair choice to form or join a union.

The package includes local hire provisions, so wages stay local, and robust funding for school construction, so schools can improve and update indoor air quality and put thousands of SMART members to work.

President Biden proposed $100 billion for school construction and, as of now, that number is fluctuating during negotiations.

Additionally, the House reconciliation package includes rail and transit safety provisions that will keep Amtrak and transit operations fully funded while providing a jumping-off point to enhance safety for America’s railroaders.

See Below For Highlights of Currently Proposed Legislation That Will Have A Direct Impact On SMART Members

HIGHLIGHTS OF CURRENT STATE OF BUDGET RECONCILIATION:
(as of Oct. 25, 2021)

Labor standards on clean energy tax credits:
  • Over $180 billion in clean energy tax credits, with a bonus tax credit for paying prevailing wages & using registered apprentices.
  • New $4,500 tax credit for union-made electric vehicles built in the United States.
  • New $500 tax credit for batteries manufactured in the United States.
Labor law reform:
  • Some of the most significant labor reforms since the New Deal have the potential for being passed in this bill. This includes new civil monetary penalties for existing unfair labor practices committed by employers during union organizing campaigns. The penalties are a dramatic step up from current sanctions and reach $50,000-$100,000 per violation.
  • New civil monetary penalties for new unfair labor practices, which include the holding of captive audience meetings, striker replacements, mis classification, lockouts and compulsory arbitration with fines of $50,000-$100,000 per violation.
  • For the first time, sanctions can be made against individual corporate officers, so directors and company CEOs can be personally liable. For example, if a director knew about an unfair labor practice and didn’t do anything about it, he or she could be held personally liable with significant penalties.
Union dues:
  • In 2017, the Trump administration removed the tax deduction for union dues. In this bill, that deduction is restored with a $250 cap.
School construction:
  • Currently, $82 billion for school construction and modernization is included in this bill.
Registered apprenticeship funding:
  • An additional $74 billion is included for job training that includes the expansion of registered apprenticeships and funds new workforce training programs to fight climate change.
Health and safety that will benefit union members and families:
  • For the first time ever, Universal Paid Leave is included, with up to 12 weeks, along with a $3,000 per child tax credit extended to 2025. This is in addition to universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as two years of free community college.
Childcare centers:
  • Over $15 billion is included in this bill to build childcare centers, which includes work for energy retrofits and HVAC systems that will put union sheet metal workers to work.
Affordable housing:
  • There is a $50 billion increase in affordable housing, which includes building energy retrofits & HVAC systems to put members to work.

HIGHLIGHTS OF CURRENT BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION FOR SMART:
(as of Oct. 25, 2021)

  • $550 billion over current spending on basic infrastructure, which is mainly focused on building roads, bridges, airports, electric vehicle charging stations, drinking water, transit, rail/Amtrak and power grid modernization.
Energy efficiency/HVAC upgrades:
  • The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $250 million to be used for an energy efficiency revolving loan fund, which can be spent on indoor air quality.
  • $50 million for an energy efficiency pilot program for nonprofit buildings to conduct energy efficiency upgrades, including HVAC systems.
  • $500 million for school energy efficiency that can be used to upgrade ventilation.
Transportation funding:
  • $6 billion for Northeast Corridor grants, along with an additional $16 billion for the national rail network.
  • $36 billion for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail, with $24 billion set aside for the Northeast Corridor.
  • $5 billion for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant program.
  • $3 billion for the Railroad Crossing Elimination Program.
  • $50 million for restoration and enhancement of the current rail system.
Amtrak reforms:
  • New stipulation that prohibits contracting out work if current employees who can perform that work are currently furloughed, as well as new requirement that requires Amtrak to staff station agent positions at stations that receive certain levels of traffic.
  • New rules requiring that Amtrak and commuter rail employees who are victims of assault must now be covered by critical incident stress plans and the benefits and protections provided by such plans.
  • To avoid reduction in operating service, a new rule is included that increases the difficulty for Congress to eliminate a long distance route.
Registered apprenticeship funding:
  • An additional $74 billion is included for job training that includes the expansion of registered apprenticeships and funds new workforce training programs to fight climate change.
Health and safety that will benefit union members and families:
  • For the first time ever, Universal Paid Leave is included, with up to 12 weeks, along with a $3,000 per child tax credit extended to 2025. This is in addition to universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as two years of free community college.
Childcare centers:
  • Over $15 billion is included in this bill to build childcare centers, which includes work for energy retrofits and HVAC systems that will put union sheet metal workers to work.
Rail safety:
  • The bill requires a National Academies study on the safety of trains longer than 7,500 feet, as well as the requirement that FRA incident reports include information on train length, the number of cars and the size of the crew on board. The DOT must also create a process to better involve stakeholders, including rail labor representatives, in its investigations.
  • Finally, a new rule requires a quarterly report on failures and functions of Positive Train Control technology.

 

SMART members lead in push for infrastructure

On Wednesday, September 23rd, a delegation of San Francisco Local 104 sheet metal workers delivered signatures from members living in U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s district on behalf of SMART SM and TD members across the United States. This photo was taken in front of her office prior to making the deliver y. From left to right: Danny Campbell, Business Representative; Aloysius Cummings, Apprentice; Zhi Zhu, Apprentice.

 

SMART Local 73 sheet metal workers were with the education secretary in Illinois on the return to school road trip. According to LU 73 President and BM Ray Suggs, “using skilled & trained workers for HVAC upgrades & repairs is the key to achieving safe indoor air quality.”

 

SMART Local 33 sheet metal workers joined Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in Ohio to talk about adult education and apprenticeships. According to Local 33 Business Manager Tim Miller, “increasing registered apprenticeship is critical. Skilled & trained workers are essential to safe indoor air quality & making sure our schools reopen safely.”

SMART members got each other’s backs!

SMART members from across the United Sates and Canada are taking action in the I Got Your Back Challenge by posting photos of themselves with their mentors at work and displaying the solidarity that makes our Union strong.

The I Got Your Back Campaign took off this August with stickers distributed to locals across North America for members to share with their mentors. Below are a few of the submissions the Journal has received. Contact your Business Manager or a local officer for a sticker to share with your fellow members and post your photos and stories online with the hashtag #SMARTIGOTYOURBACK

You can also email your stories and photos to mentors@smart-union.org

“This dude right here, Steve ‘El Duderino’ Hoover is who I want to hand off the Local 9 Union sticker ‘I Got Your Back’ to. I met Steve 4 years ago in the field, and he’s become a brother to me. Steve is not only a hard-working family man and veteran but he’s also a man of God, a warrior, and a philosopher. Our conversations about life, love and the pursuit of the American dream have got me through my hardest times. Having him on jobs has not only uplifted my spirit but the spirit of others. He attends Local 9 Union meetings and always pushes for “what could be better.” Today, we both received layoffs due to work reduction, and instead of panic or concern, we went and had coffee and laughed about how great God has been to both of us, looking, with generosity, to the future. Steve has my back, and I got his, not only as Union brothers, but as brothers in God, and brothers of this crazy thing we call life. Love you, Steve. I got your back.”

SM LU 27 (Central and Southern NJ) journeyperson Makenzie Cromer at work for Gerard Sheet Metal. She’s been with the company since day 1 and an apprentice contest winner as well.

SMART Local 177 sheet metal workers David LaRue & Aida Kruse have each others’ backs and those of their fellow brothers and sisters.

SMART Local 18 Wausau members Kelsie Rigney and Bill Smith.

 

SMART Local 18 sheet metal workers at JM Brennan on the St. Camillus new retirement housing high rise have each others’ backs:

Apprentice Caleb Ogden w/ Journeyman Luke Hesse.

SMLT Nick Caulley w/ Apprentice Dylan Mooney and Foreman Ben Norberg.

Apprentice Jesse Matusek w/ Journeymen Pat Kirschbaum and Jerry Krause.

Initial Steps Taken as U.S. Government Works to Invigorate Labor

A recently released report from the Economic Policy Institute finds that decades of attacks on collective bargaining have been a driving factor behind depressed wage growth for working Americans over the last four decades, regardless of their union affiliation. The inability for workers to join or form a union at work, due to roadblocks enacted by a series of conservative courts and hostile Congresses, has only exacerbated this issue.

According to the report, the decades-long erosion in union membership has lowered the median hourly wage by $1.56, a 7.9% decline since 1979. When applied to a year’s wages, this comes to $3,250 annually for a full-time worker. Another study from the same group found that workers would be making $10 more an hour if their wages had kept up with increases in productivity during the same 40-year period.

The truth is that the results of the last presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined.

The good news is this trend can be reversed, and there are serious efforts now underway by pro-labor elected officials to do exactly this. If you are reading or watching the news, you would imagine that what matters to your financial wellbeing is the last thing anyone on Capitol Hill is thinking about. The truth is that the results of the last Presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined. With the focus in the media on sensational and divisive topics, one important story missing has been the renewed focus on rebuilding the American middle class.

Americans already saw the passage of the American Rescue Plan back in March. This legislation brought new job opportunities, now and into the future, for our SMART union families. It not only boosted jobs but retirement security as well, with $86 billion in funding for multiemployer pension plans. New child tax credits for working families and elements of the pending infrastructure package will not only increase funding for registered apprenticeship programs, apply labor standards and put members to work building schools and ensuring the quality of the air that our school children breathe, but will also add elements of badly needed labor law reform that will level the playing field for working families. This includes actual sanctions for companies that interfere with their employees’ rights to organize, from $50,000 per offense to $100,000 and punitive penalties for executives that encourage this unlawful behavior. Additionally, via the infrastructure package, Congress would reinstate the tax deduction for union dues with a $250 cap—an important provision for union workers that the Trump administration removed in 2017. These are significant steps forward and why SMART is fighting hard for Congress to pass the infrastructure package.

These important changes will play a big part in turning the tide for workers and collective bargaining. They will strengthen our unionized presence, enforce the fact that it is the workers’ right to organize and close the gap between where America’s wages are and where they should be.

It took decades of attacks from anti-labor legislators and courts to get us to where we are today. It will take some time to improve the state of collective bargaining to where we can rebuild America’s middle class and make sure opportunity is available to all who seek to achieve it. The responsibility continues with each of us.

Fraternally and in unity,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

SMART Capital: Expanding Work Opportunities in the Sheet Metal Industry

SMART Capital Program was launched in 2018 with the intent to help signatory companies expand into new markets to create more work opportunities for our members. The program creates a partnership between SMART International, Local Unions and signatory companies.

This program is one that allows Local Unions to partner with their signatory contractors to take on larger projects and modernize their operations to stay ahead of the competition as the industry evolves due to technological change. It also assists contractors with resources allocated to the acquisition of union and non-union competitors in order to expand our share of an increasingly diverse market while solidifying our hold on market segments we currently have a presence in.

This unique program partners with the local union and international funds to provide loan guarantees, additional bonding and assistance with equipment purchases.

This unique program partners with the local union and international funds to provide loan guarantees, additional bonding and assistance with equipment purchases. We have also expanded into a program to help start up I Want SMART as a pilot program in two local unions. This leverage secures an overall gain for both members and contractors alike as the expanded market presence strengthens our collective bargaining agreements while tapping into new pools of work opportunities.

The program is already in place across the United States at places such as SM Locals 10, 16, 24, 33, 67, 104, 105.

At Local 105, the SMART Capital program was used to assist a contractor with its acquisition of a non-union firm that saw the company not only establish a presence in the service side of the industry but bring in new positions to fill for current Local 105 members, with staffing levels of up to 80 members — up from 40 prior to when they secured the loan. Another signatory firm utilized a line of credit it secured through the SMART Capital program to establish a solid footing in more complex and larger projects that require the expertise of existing Local 105 sheet metal workers. The growth of the program saw this firm alone expand from six to forty-four Union sheet metal workers.

In the coming months and years ahead, the SMART Capital program is only going to continue to grow as we look to prudently push to expand our reach within the sheet metal industry to create new good paying union jobs. Like all good investments, the relationship does not end with the culmination of the initial transaction. An analysis and review of the company’s financials are made, first ensuring that all trust fund obligations are met. It is only once this step has been achieved that the SMART Capital program begins working with commercial banks to provide underwriting and loan servicing — to ensure the stability of the investment in work hours is made in the best interest of the membership.

This type of innovative thinking is and will continue to be needed as we navigate a transitioning and competitive sheet metal industry while ensuring we continue to set the standard for decades to come.

At the end of the day, all stakeholders in the union side of the industry — the members, contractors and the end users who see their projects secured — come out ahead. This type of innovative thinking is and will continue to be needed as we navigate a transitioning and competitive sheet metal industry while ensuring we continue to set the standard for decades to come.

As my friend and brother Luther Medina, Local 105 Business Manager and SMART GEC member has said: “We told contractors we are here to help. This is a partnership and we have to work together. When a contractor grows, our membership grows.”

I could not agree more.

Fraternally,

Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

Your Commitment Pushes Us Forward

Brothers and sisters:

It’s hard to believe that we’re three-quarters of the way through 2021. With the changing of the seasons into autumn, it seems like an opportune time to outline a few of the positive changes we’re making to better serve you.

Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union. We were founded on safety. Both our TD Safety Condition Report and Technology Event Report are fully integrated and go directly from members to officers. If you find that there is a safety risk, COVID-related or otherwise on your property, remember to fill out a confidential Safety Condition Report on our website or through the SMART app. No time is lost when routing these reports directly from members — once it’s submitted, it will be acted upon by the officers of jurisdiction. Truly, there is no time to waste when it comes to serving the membership, especially when it comes to safety.

Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union.

I myself am trying to make up for time lost with the initial COVID lockdowns, travel restrictions and everything else that limited our ability to safely gather. The pandemic was declared in March 2020, about five and a half months into my presidency. All the plans we’d made for local visits, regional meetings and other events got put on hold right then and there. We began to formulate ways to 1) Ensure that our membership was as safe as possible in the evolving situation of the pandemic; and 2) Try to transform the operations of a national labor union in such a way to ensure that we could continue to meet the needs and serve members with minimal disruption.

Much of the union’s focus was drawn to those challenges. But these missions eventually were accomplished thanks to the tremendous efforts and collaboration of our members, our officers and the capable staff at the Cleveland office.

I agree with the statement made by Minnesota SLD Nick Katich regarding the mini regional meeting he recently held, there really is no substitute for getting out and engaging face-to-face (even with masks and social distancing).

My opinion is that the job of being president of a proud national transportation union is not done properly from behind a desk. I enjoy nothing more than getting to meet and know my fellow brothers and sisters of SMART from coast to coast and craft to craft, hearing firsthand their triumphs as well as their issues and concerns so that we can work together on the solutions.

Merriam-Webster defines a labor union as: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits and working conditions.
SMART is a labor union and the union at its core is you. A union, as defined, is all about banding together for common well-being— united. So as TD President, visiting you where you are is a great priority of mine. COVID slowed that down, but just recently I have made numerous visits in several states attending meetings both big and small to get input from you about the goals and direction that SMART-TD should take in safety, contract and organizational matters all the while providing factual answers and updates to questions asked. I find these discussions energizing and enlightening as we develop new ideas to make SMART-TD the best transportation union it can be for all members now and into the future.

Looking ahead, there will be more member-focused improvements. A long-planned revamp of the union website coming next year will not only offer a new look and added content, but enhanced features so that the information members need can be attained faster. While we recently made another update on the SMART App, we continue to look into additional membership suggestions in our continuing efforts of making it a vital tool for members.
We are also past the design and developmental stages of the new SMART University. We are currently finalizing the educational materials and content that will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SMART U will be an online learning and resource center focused on improving our members’ and officers’ knowledge and skills, bringing information and workshops that in the past have only been accessible by attending an annual in-person meeting.

Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization.

I’m excited to present these initiatives to you, and your union leadership is always open to hearing about how it can improve. Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization. The first step can be just as easy as attending your local meeting and encouraging others to use the tools your union provides for the benefit of the whole.
For those of you who want to become more involved, running for an elected local position is a great way to start. Next year, 2022 local committee elections (local chairperson, vice local chairperson and LCA secretary) are held while 2023 brings elections for local officers (president, VP, secretary, treasurer, legislative representative, ALR, trustee and delegate) Both provide members an opportunity to get more involved. If there is a vacancy at your local, perhaps you may wish to step up and fill the position.

Every union officer, including myself, did not step into the job knowing everything. Some of us were lucky enough to have mentors like Herm Boruta, while others learned as they went. While there is not a substitute for experience, it starts with asking for help when it is needed. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask a question, but rather of strength. Someone somewhere in SMART-TD will have an answer as they most likely experienced or dealt with the same thing. Mentoring the next generation of officers is yet another important function that we need to focus on and is something that we are working diligently on improving, starting with the aforementioned initiatives.

The power we can exert when we as a group of fraternal brothers and sisters are united, engaged and all working toward the same goals can be so powerful yet is often underutilized. Let’s tap into that power and energy of unity at all levels. We all must remember, even when in disagreement, there are things that bind us together as SMART-TD that we must work hand-in-hand on: wages, benefits and working conditions for the benefit of us all.

Please stay safe and God bless!

Fraternally,

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Moving Forward With a Minority — Power to the Workers!

Canada’s unions are calling on all levels of government to provide adequate support for workers and their families as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reverberate in communities throughout the nation. As the dust settles on an unnecessary and uncalled-for federal election, the message couldn’t be any clearer. Canadians have sent a concise message to get to work on the issues that matter. As we know, minority governments only last if they have the confidence of the House. This election demonstrated that Canadians want the government to work together.

During this election we asked our members to get involved in the Let’s Build Canada campaign. Your participation in the surveys and letter-writing campaigns enabled our issues to be heard and placed into the party platforms. Issues such as labour mobility tax credit, building green and a stronger workforce were our main focus. As the Canadian Building Trade Unions (CBTU), we were able to get commitments from the parties on issues that matter to our members during this election.

Due to your activism, the CBTU was able to get commitments from the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP on the workers’ mobility tax credit.

Over 70% of those in the skilled trades identified travelling for work as a common necessity. 75% said there isn’t always work available where they live, and shortages are common. 70% have taken a job outside of their region in the last five years. Due to your activism, the CBTU was able to get commitments from the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP on the workers’ mobility tax credit. Now it is up to us to make sure that we get this legislation introduced, and by getting members involved we can push the issue over the finish line. The trade mobility tax credit will be beneficial to all members as they travel across their provinces and the country for work.

On the question of building Canada’s green future, two-thirds of respondents have given some thought to what that transition to a green economy means for them. They have some idea of what that will mean and whether they’ll need to be re-skilled. Retraining will be a key concern as job opportunities transition towards those in the green economy and renewables. 47% say that there have been a growing number of opportunities for the current skill sets in renewable green infrastructure and retrofitting industries. Concerns about the financial impact of the transition outweigh the concerns about retraining itself. 76% are concerned that jobs in the renewable green sector will not pay as well, whereas 71% are concerned about the cost they will have to incur regarding retraining. We must ensure that the government prioritizes a “just transition” for workers in affected industries as we move forward.

When it comes to building a stronger workforce, we must push for Employment Insurance (EI) reform and representation on federal EI working groups, boards and committees.

When it comes to building a stronger workforce, we must push for Employment Insurance (EI) reform and representation on federal EI working groups, boards and committees. 93% surveyed agreed that there should be a dedicated skills trade representative or advisor on the federal employment insurance working group when it comes to reforms. 92% agree that EI should have a greater flexibility, for example, removing age limits and being able to receive EI when retraining and upskilling and to permanently remove the clawback on separation monies. A majority demonstrated a desire for more government support on apprenticeships and a transition to a green economy, and 92% preferred to see more government support for oil and gas workers during the transition to a green economy. 84% would like Community Benefit Agreements (CBA’s) to increase the opportunities for unrepresented groups on federal infrastructure and projects.

So, as we move forward with this minority government, it is up to all of us to stay actively involved. We must continue to push this government and our elected representatives on the need to support our initiatives. To see progress, we need to continue these discussions and stay involved. By scanning the QR code on the previous page, you can stay involved and up to date on the issues that affect SMART members across Canada. Your say and vote matters! Workers are the recovery. Power to the Workers!!

In solidarity,

I remain, fraternally yours,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

I Got Your Back: Be the Difference

The 2019 Convention was a momentous one in SMART’s history. For the first time, we looked at the way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters and the impact it has on our industries’ growth. We changed the language of our Constitution to make it more inclusive. Both our proclamations and adding language about conduct that is harassing, hazing, bullying or discriminating as chargeable offenses under Article 17 shows SMART’s desire to have a safe and welcoming environment for all members.

The “I GOT YOUR BACK” campaign gives every member the opportunity to show individual and collective commitment to protect our sisters and brothers and live up to the ideals of union solidarity. It is our commitment to demonstrate through our behavior that all SMART members belong and have a right to a safe working environment free from harassment, hazing, bullying and discrimination, so we can confidently say to our sisters and brothers, “I GOT YOUR BACK.”

The campaign also promotes a safe haven among all members of SMART. It is based on awareness of work environment discrimination, bullying, hazing and harassment. Do you have that special mentor who had your back? Now is the time to let them know how their support impacted you and recognize them for their solidarity. Wearing your “I GOT YOUR BACK” sticker symbolizes that YOU will have all other members’ backs. It lets a member who is need of an ally know he or she has a safe place to turn.

Let’s make and be the difference!!!!
Who has been an ally to you?

Arielle Womack

SMART Local 66
Western Washington

Unfortunately, my son died in November 2019. He was a month away from turning a year old. The first person I called, I left a message with my business agent and then my boss. But the next two people I called were Tammy Mehan and Vanessa Carman. I might’ve texted because I didn’t want to call, because I didn’t want to cry, because it’s harder to understand what I’m saying. So, I say this just happened. I really need help. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know where to start. I have to plan a memorial, and do all this stuff. And they were like, whatever you need, we’re here for you. And it was the weekend before Thanksgiving, and Vanessa sent a whole Thanksgiving dinner to my house, so that we wouldn’t have to cook. My business agents brought food and frozen stuff from Costco to help my family just so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking.

My brother went to the union to ask for funds to help with the memorial cost. They gave me the max amount, and then an additional amount, I believe. I held the memorial at the JATC hall, because it’s really big, has a kitchen, and everybody knew where it was. So, if someone felt like maybe they didn’t know me that well, but they wanted to show their support, I wanted them to be able to go without feeling like it was only a family thing.

“You can tell someone all day that you’re going to be there for them, but when you show up is when it matters. And I GOT YOUR BACK is showing up when it counts.”

They have your back, and then they give you the shirt off theirs, and then they give you the last bite of food they have and give you a ride to the airport kind of stuff. These are the most warm and inviting and generous people I’ve been around since I was in the military. I haven’t found that kind of support anywhere else. People just don’t do that anymore. I never thought I would have to go through what I went through, and it’s never easy, but it could have been so much harder, if I hadn’t had those people, it would have been 100 percent harder. It was just so much support. I don’t even have words for it.

You can tell someone all day that you’re going to be there for them, but when you show up is when it matters. And I GOT YOUR BACK is showing up when it counts. And they do that every time, without fail. And they do it with 110% effort.

I just happened to be lucky that I joined right about the same time that Vanessa decided to start a Women’s Committee. And I don’t know where I’d be without it. Even before all of this stuff happened, I would text her and call, like I’m having a really hard time with this job site. And she’d tell me everything I needed to hear. “Keep going. You deserve this, you’ve earned it.” That’s what I mean, they say the right thing, they do the right thing, and they’re there when it counts. And that’s having your back. These are the people that you can count on, because they’re going to come through, because they always do.



Carol Jones

Amtrak conductor, SMART-TD Local 1361
New Haven, CT

I am proud to be an Amtrak conductor, I’m proud to be a part of the union, I’m proud to be in this environment that’s predominantly male, doing the same job, doing my own thing, doing it well, respecting the people that I work with and opening doors. I love my job.

“The doors have been opened, but they’ve been cracked open. We had to kind of wedge our way in there. But we’re here.”

It’s very rare that there is a female engineer, a female conductor, a female assistant conductor. It doesn’t happen that often. The doors have been opened, but they’ve been cracked open. We had to kind of wedge our way in there. But we’re here.

You give back, but a lot of people have paved the way — men and women — for me to be where I am. Because it wasn’t a woman that came to me and asked me to run for local chairperson. It wasn’t a woman that suggested it. It was a man in a predominantly male environment who came to me and said “You can do it. I will help you do so.” So, I will forever be indebted to my brothers, as well as my sisters. And I want to lift up the men on this railroad a bit, because although we have challenges, there are a lot of men out here who have paved the way, that have protected us, that have stepped in when things were being said that should not have been said and said “Hold on, knock it off.” So, I want to recognize them, as well as my sisters. Because it takes all of us to make this work.


Alexandra Miller

SMART Local 265 member
Addison, IL

I could never thank Ed Marciniak enough for having my back. Ed was the first person I met from SMART 265 and it changed my life. Ed was the person who convinced me to go to my first union event. He told me about all of the union benefits, but that wasn’t the only thing that got me hooked. Ed has this attachment with the union that made me feel like I had found my second family. He has an open-door policy. When I need anything, he has my back.


Debra Orlowski

School bus driver, SMART-TD Local 1908
Buffalo, NY

I have been a bus driver for 26 years. It’s a very challenging job, but it’s also very rewarding. Parents depend on you, the schools depend on you and, of course, your boss depends on you. Because if you don’t show up, there’s no one to drive that bus. You have some of your kids for years, and you see them grow into different types of people. You get attached to the kids, especially if you’ve been doing it long enough. And they get to know you. You’ll see them as a little child, and you see them when they’re graduating high school and it’s great. And then you bump into them years later and they still remember you.

“Sometimes the managers try to belittle people and you’d be surprised at the women who will come up and say something, or the men will come up and say ‘Hey, look, it doesn’t go like that.’ ”

There have been many times when, inside the terminals, you have a heated argument going on with a manager or with one of the drivers and if you go in and say something, a lot of the other drivers will stick up and go in and help out. Sometimes the managers try to belittle people and you’d be surprised at the women who will come up and say something, or the men will come up and say “Hey, look, it doesn’t go like that.”  You do get support from other members. A lot of them understand and a lot of them know what’s going on and they try to help you out and they do got your back. They’ll have your back and they’ll explain to people what’s going on.

I wouldn’t want to be anything else but be in the SMART union, or in any union, because you have no protection once that’s not around.


Chris James

SMART Local 265 member
Bradley, IL

Being a former military member, the phrase “I got your back” is music to my ears. After serving four years in the Marine Corps, I didn’t think that I would be part of an organization that embraced that motto. To me, it isn’t just a motto. It’s a mindset and an attitude. When organizations bring that into the workforce, positive things will happen. I am proud that “I got your back” is something we are talking about and practicing on the job site.

When asked about who has been an ally to me, who has had my back, and who has been influential in my short time as a tinner, I didn’t have to think very hard. I was lucky enough to know this person before I even started my apprenticeship. This tinner’s name is Dave St. Peter. He has got to be one of the smartest and most hard-working members I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Having a prior union friendship helped me to be more comfortable opening up and asking him questions for mentoring. This eventually unfolded into him being the person I went to for most work advice, job site leadership advice, etc. As the old saying goes, “One of the keys to success is surrounding yourself with successful people.” That couldn’t be more true than Dave’s magnetic pull he seems to have on those he has encountered. Dave is, and has been, a full-time instructor at the hall for many years. I couldn’t think of a more fitting place for him to be. It is because of him, and others like him, that bring true meaning to the phrase “I got your back.”


Sharon Walker

Business Representative, SMART Local 24
Southern Ohio

There are a lot more women, I think, on the production side that work in the shops than there are on the building trades side. However, you still face the same issues. You still have the majority of men that you’re working with, you still have discrimination, sexual harassment issues, maternity leave issues, those sort of things. So, we’re kind of intertwining both sides, the production and the building trades side and tackling the issues together.

I’ve seen a lot more men who know that the workforce is short right now and that’s a way to fill the void, and they are stepping up for women. And I think I’m seeing more unity as far as a union, everybody joining together.

“I’ve seen a lot more men who know that the workforce is short right now and that’s a way to fill the void, and they are stepping up for women.”

Today, we have more women applying for work in our industry. They all had the mentality that it was a men’s trade, strictly a man’s trade. And now, with the SMART Women’s Committee and the women’s representatives, we are getting the word out there, and there are more women getting involved. They see an opportunity there. It’s a good career.

One of the production shops at Local 24 had one woman when I started three and a half years ago, and they have several now. I’ve been working with the JATC coordinators in Local 24. Of course, we couldn’t do anything all last year because of COVID, but we’re planning on setting up at local job fairs. It just seems like when you’re at a job fair, especially at some of these vocational and high schools, you’re going to have more young women come up to the table to speak if they see a woman standing at the table. So, we’re doing that and I’m going to attend job fairs that way with the JATC coordinators and try to get more women recruited.

I GOT YOUR BACK CAMPAIGN:

INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO TAKE PART

This campaign is based on raising awareness of work environment discrimination, bullying, hazing and harassment that occurs far too often at work.
  • Once you participate, you are letting other members know they have an ally to turn to in times of need.
  • Wearing or displaying your “I GOT YOUR BACK” sticker symbolizes that YOU will have ALL members’ backs.
  • We’re asking all members to step up, stand up for each other and continue mentoring to everyone’s benefit.
  • For example, apprentices who receive support are twice as likely to complete their apprenticeship and remain
    employed than if they do not. New workers in the transportation industry need guidance as well. Remember, the
    future of our industries relies on them and they are your sisters and brothers.
What You Can Do:
  • Members can give a sticker, that will be distributed through local unions, to someone in their trade who has stuck up for
    them, or has had their back. They can also take a picture with that person.
  • Post the picture, along with a short description of how that person had their back, to social media with the hashtag
    #SMARTIGOTYOURBACK or email it to mentors@smart-union.org.

These stories will be showcased by SMART via video, social media, print and other outlets as they become available.

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