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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.