A Joint Effort of SMART, SMACNA and the ITI
SMART has long been committed to creating an environment of welcoming, belonging and excellence for all of our members. However, SMART recognizes that not all individuals and groups are situated the same, with the same access to resources and opportunities. Therefore, the Belonging and Excellence for All (BE4ALL) effort is a targeted approach to ensure that all members, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, experience these universal goals.
We need a culture that enables our union to attract and retain the best, most skilled workers – and in doing so, affirms the dignity and worth of every human being who walks through our doors. We need to reinforce union solidarity so that each and every one of us has the other’s back. We need an industry that embodies professionalism – not only in our technical skills, but in the work environment we create: free from harassment, discrimination, bullying and hazing. We need an industry where our members and contractors can do the best possible work efficiently and effectively. These are all critical ingredients to creating a thriving culture and industry. And SMART believes BE4ALL is the vehicle for how we make this happen.
SMACNA’s leadership shares our vision for transforming the industry. Over the last year we have engaged in numerous discussions with SMACNA’s leadership, as well as International Training Institute (ITI) representatives, to build alignment and a shared sense of purpose. To be clear, this effort is not about blaming or shaming individuals or granting special treatment to one segment of the membership over another. It is about increasing awareness about how we can create an environment for welcoming, belonging and excellence – one that attracts and retains anyone who has the skills and desire to meet our culture of excellence. It is about union solidarity.
SMART, SMACNA and the ITI have retained Dushaw Hockett, our outside belonging and excellence expert, to provide facilitation and technical support for our joint BE4ALL effort.
A bold, long-term effort to:
- Transform the entire sheet metal and air conditioning industry;
- By creating work/business environments that are welcoming and foster belonging for all workers and contractors, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups; and
- That support workers and contractors in striving for the highest standards of performance and professionalism in their technical skills and crafts;
- So that SMART and SMACNA can attract and retain the best and most skilled workers/contractors; and
- In the process, grow/sustain a thriving industry that affirms the dignity and worth of every human being who walks through our doors.
Phase #1 – Assess – Assess attitudes and perspectives with respect to diversity, inclusion and belonging.
Phase #2 – Assemble – Share and discuss themes from assessment.
Phase #3 – Awareness Raising (Ongoing) – A series of trainings focused on implicit bias and evidence-based strategies for bias reduction.
Phase #4 – Align – Translate themes/insights from phases one through three into specific and measurable goals/action steps for 2022 and beyond.
Phase #5 – Act – Implement action steps; assess; then repeat.
SMART’s Belonging and Excellence for All (BE4ALL) Committee
The SMART BE4ALL Committee consists of SMART members across the United States and Canada, and they will help shape and guide the overall direction of this work. The committee will work collectively with SMACNA’s committee and ITI representatives to ensure a broad and effective process.
The SMART BE4ALL Committee members are:
Training Coordinator, Western Washington JATC
SMART Local Union 66
Local Vice President
SMART Local Union 85
Rafael De La Rosa
Training & Operations Support Specialist
SMART Local Union 28
Regional Director of Organizing
John J. Harris
Field Superintendent, Apollo Mechanical Contractors
SMART Local Union 399
Local Organizer/Marketing Representative
SMART Local Union 73
Executive Board Member, St. Louis Labor Council
Executive Board Member, Black Girls Build, Inc.
SMART Local Union 36
SMART Local Union 33
Darrell L. Roberts
Director of Organizing
Director of Organizing/JATC Administrator
SMART Local Union 105
SMART Local Union 30
In recognition that working together on diversity, equity and inclusion within our industry would be the most effective way to effect real and lasting change, SMART and SMACNA have engaged in ongoing discussions about recruiting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce with the skills to meet our needs now and in the future. In an initial step affirming our joint objectives, the SMACNA Board of Directors and the SMART General Executive Council adopted the following statement at their respective January 2021 meetings:
SMACNA and SMART recognize that diversity strengthens our workforce, benefits our communities, and makes the unionized sheet metal industry stronger and more competitive by reflecting the communities where we operate and the people we serve. To affirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have agreed to develop, with the help of experts, a coordinated strategic plan with long-term and short-term objectives which will be evaluated and adjusted as necessary. Our unified goal is to shift the mindset of management, labor leaders, and our respective memberships to recruit, welcome, and retain the most competent and skilled workforce available while embracing differences in age, ability, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, national origin, language, marital status, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and other characteristics that make individuals unique. SMACNA and SMART are strongly committed to take the necessary steps to achieve our goal of a diverse industry with no tolerance of bullying, harassment, or discrimination. We will provide regular updates on our progress on the strategic plan and on our continued work to promote our shared values of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
SMACNA and SMART are now in the process of developing a strategic plan to help us reach our goals and build the foundation of an industry dedicated to equity and inclusion.
In December of last year, SMART, SMACNA and the International Training Institute (ITI) launched the Belonging and Excellence for All Campaign (BE 4 ALL).
We know that many of you have questions about this work, so we’ve taken the time to share a few answers.
Think of this article as a formal introduction. Brothers, sisters and siblings, please welcome BE 4 ALL.
1. What is BE 4 ALL?
BE 4 ALL is a joint effort of SMACNA, SMART and the ITI. The vision for the work is twofold:
A. To create a diverse and inclusive unionized sheet metal industry that is welcoming and fosters belonging for ALL people; and
B. To sustain a thriving industry in which:
- We recruit, train and retain the best talent; and
- Workers and contractors strive to achieve the highest standards of performance and excellence in their technical skills and crafts.
2. The term “belonging” is new to me. What does it mean? And how is it different from diversity and inclusion?
Here’s a helpful way to think about the difference between the three terms:
A. Diversity means that everyone – regardless of their race, gender identity, age or other identity strands — is invited to participate in and benefit from our industry.
B. Inclusion means that everyone has a seat at the table and a way to make their voices heard
C. Belonging goes much deeper than diversity and inclusion. It means two things:
- That when people come to the table, they feel that they can bring their full, authentic self – ALL parts of who they are as a human being; and
- Belonging is also about building the table together. It’s about co-creation. To put it another way, transforming our industry and ensuring that we remain relevant and competitive will take all-hands-on-deck. We will only be successful if we’re working on this endeavor TOGETHER. BE 4 ALL is the vehicle for how we do this.
3. BE 4 ALL is a fancy name. It sounds good on paper. What exactly will the initiative do on a day-to-day basis?
For 2022–23, we have a four-part agenda for our work. The four parts are as follows:
A. Assessment — Survey and interview members and leaders across the industry to better understand their hopes, wants, needs and fears related to the BE 4 ALL work.
B. Awareness — Conduct training sessions for International staff and JATC coordinators focused on strategies for reducing bias and increasing belonging.
C. Alignment — Work with SMART’s newly formed BE 4 ALL Committee to convert findings from the assessment process into concrete action steps, and meet quarterly with SMACNA and the ITI to explore ways to collaborate across the industry.
D. Act — Begin implementation of the action steps.
4. Is BE 4 ALL only for women and people of color? How do ALL members benefit?
Without question, BE 4 ALL is for ALL members and contractors. We believe that EVERY human being (with an emphasis on the word “every”) should experience belonging (see the definition under bullet #2), regardless of your race, gender identity, etc. But we also know that this is not currently the case for some groups. So BE 4 ALL may need to tailor and target programs and strategies to ensure that particular groups have what they need to reach the universal goal of belonging. But make no mistakes about it, BE 4 ALL is for the benefit of ALL members.<
5. Is this work about attacking white people?
The short answer is no. We’ve all heard the reports. Across our countries, meetings turning into shouting matches. People blaming and shaming each other. This is NOT what BE 4 ALL is about. Yes, the work of belonging requires us to have hard conversations sometimes. But it also requires that we treat each other with dignity, respect and compassion. It requires that we see our common humanity in other people.
6. Talk to me about results. What do we hope will be different as a result of this work?
We’re still in the planning stages. But over the next few years, we expect to begin seeing results in five key areas. They are:<
A. Expansion — Expanding and diversifying the pool of people from which we recruit.
B. Recruitment — Proactively recruiting new members into our organizations.
C. Training — Equipping members with the skills, tools and values they need to be successful.
D. Retention — Creating the type of work and business environments where people want to stay — and where they can imagine a long career of service and contribution.
E. Advancement — Helping members climb the ladder into leadership positions or other opportunities.
7. How long will it take for BE 4 ALL to achieve its goals?
BE 4 ALL is not a quick fix project. As one person recently put it, this is “forever work.” That said, to truly transform an entire industry will take years. However, we plan to set annual benchmarks to ensure that we’re making progress along the way. Stay tuned for our plan for 2022–23, which will include measurable goals.
8. What’s the structure of BE 4 ALL? How is it organized?
BE 4 ALL is guided by a diverse committee of members and leaders from throughout SMART, including apprentices, journey-level members and union officials. The committee makes recommendations to General President Sellers and General Secretary Treasurer Powell.
SMACNA has a similar structure.
The leadership and committees for both SMACNA and SMART, along with the ITI, meet quarterly to plan and coordinate BE 4 ALL activities across the industry.
9. Is this work about “lowering standards” or hiring people who are “unqualified?”
Absolutely not. At the recent Partners In Progress (PINP) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tim Carter, Northwest Regional Council president, and Julie Mueller, executive director for SMACNA’s Western Region, shared that they’ve seen a “dramatic reduction” in the apprentice wash out rates for women and people of color. They reported that they achieved this by “raising the bar,” not lowering it. Specifically, they improved the quality of training and support provided to apprentices to ensure that each person had what they needed to perform at the highest standards of excellence. Their approach reinforced two things: a) this work is NOT about lowering standards; and b) the work of belonging does not view people as inadequate or deficient. It sees talent and potential in all human beings. And it’s our job to nurture it.
10. Why are we even focused on this work? Can’t we just treat each other like human beings?
This is an excellent question. Yes, in the long term, the goal is to build workplaces (and a society) where we celebrate our shared humanity and where we appreciate ALL the ways that human beings are diverse or different. But in order to reach this goal, we have to remove the barriers that get in the way. These include the biases and stereotypes about each other that we’ve ALL internalized (oftentimes unconsciously) over the course of our lives. These biases and stereotypes may stem from the places where we grew up. Or the schools we attended. Or the families in which we were raised. So yes, getting to the point where we treat each other like human beings is the ultimate goal. BE 4 ALL is the pathway for how we get there.
11. If I want to get involved or support the work of BE 4 ALL, how do I do that?
If you want to learn more about BE 4 ALL, or if you’re looking to get involved, please reach out to Donna Silverman, assistant to the general president, at email@example.com.