SMART GP Nigro: A Transparent History
Throughout the past year, we have shared major portions of our history, as documented by labor historian Grace Palladino. She has provided an insightful and candid look at several major issues addressed by your union’s leadership since publication of an earlier history in 1981. Our objective in this current effort was to detail actions taken on strategic decisions made to advance the union’s mission and to benefit its members. What we have received, as a contribution to the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, is an independent examination of our records and personal interviews with a number of officers and staff who were personally involved in many of these issues. I hope you have found it interesting and informative. Current and future leaders, we believe, will benefit from this transparent look at decision making.
My reading of our history leads me to a couple of conclusions. SMART has a strong base on which to build its future. Its leadership is as resilient, creative and unstoppable as ever. We owe much to the generations of leaders over the past 33 years—leaders who fought hard to protect our interests and our families’ welfare. If not for forward-thinking leaders like Edward J. Carlough, we would not be where we are today. General President of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association between 1970 and 1993—a generally lean period for union construction workers—he fully believed that God helped those who helped themselves. “That’s why we created SASMI, a national training fund, a national pension fund, and NEMI,” he noted. And that’s why Engineering News- Record named him Construction Man of he Year in 1975, a time when the Business Roundtable was pushing open-shop construction, and doublebreasted union/nonunion firms were on the rise. “I’ve never held my breath waiting for someone to help me,” he said, “and I never will.”
Arthur Moore, who took over as IA president in 1993, provided strong financial leadership and made hard decisions to help strengthen the National Pension Fund. “Our goal must be to preserve our pensions,” he told the membership. Michael J. Sullivan became the next General President, placing a high priority on the union’s organizing program to help build membership and increase contributions to the pension fund. He also saw the advantages of mergers, which ultimately led to the decision by the United Transportation Union to join in forming the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART).
The experiences of these recent General Presidents have greatly influenced me throughout my career. Each had a different approach in leading the union, but they all had the same dedication and understanding that the members come first in all deliberations. It is now my responsibility to enhance the future of this great union by successfully concluding the merger of our union and promoting the value of our members’ expertise, whether in construction, manufacturing, or transportation.
As this year comes to a close, I extend season’s greetings to you, your family, and friends and wish you the very best of happiness, good health, and success in the coming year.
Joseph J. Nigro