SMART’s relentless political advocacy over recent years has helped foster massive infrastructure investment on both public and private projects. From New York state, to Central Ohio, to Arizona and well beyond, megaprojects are creating tens of thousands of jobs for SMART sheet metal workers — all with a presidential administration that is pushing hard for these projects to include strong labor standards that create union jobs.
“Right now we’re tracking close to 300 megaprojects — we know that there will be about 60 that will break ground, are currently started or will be starting this year,” said SMART Chief International Representative Scott Parks. “It wasn’t that long ago that a $1 million sheet metal job was very exciting; now we have 60 megaprojects in the pipeline. It’s a good time to be a sheet metal worker.”
Much of the public funding for these projects comes from legislation passed by the Biden administration: the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Due to the unprecedented role labor has played in the passage and assembly of those laws, companies hoping to take advantage of funding and tax incentives are being pushed to build with strong labor standards in place, bringing good, union jobs to projects breaking ground from coast to coast.
Importantly, Parks pointed out, these jobs require a consistent sheet metal presence, keeping our members at work as technology advances, during retooling and reorganization, and during outages and shutdowns. And the specific skills and crafts required on such projects cover nearly all the sheet metal positions that SMART represents: from frontline supervisors, to testers and balancers, to welders, to everyone else.
“If you can imagine balancing a project that could require 100 balancers — geographically, you may only have 100 balancers in two states,” he explained. “So we’re going to be challenged to make sure we tool up our members so that they’re prepared to take care of these projects.”
The bounty of work on the horizon has created an unprecedented moment of opportunity. According to Parks, the current number of megaprojects breaking ground means one can almost make a projection 10 years out — a far cry from the post-2008 years, when SMART leadership balked at speculating even two or three years into the future. But with that opportunity comes new responsibility.
“We are not going to be able to apprentice our way into the workforce we need to meet these demands — we are not going to be able to do things the way we have always done it in the past, period,” explained SMART General President Michael Coleman. “We have got to put an exceptional focus on organizing, recruiting and retaining in every community.”
SMART members and local unions know the differences between a union career and a nonunion gig: stability, family-sustaining pay and benefits, solidarity and safety on the job, to name only a few. Now, with hundreds of huge jobs breaking ground from Oregon to Atlanta — on top of SMART local unions’ core work — the time is now to bring members into our union.
“When it comes to organizing and recruiting, we’re organizing shops, we’re organizing projects — folks who want to be union sheet metal workers, we’ll bring them in,” Parks explained. “If they’re in an apprenticeship program that may not be a sheet metal apprenticeship program, we’re bringing them in so they have the best chance of success moving forward. If someone comes in as a nonunion journeyperson, that’s great too — we want everyone.”
Many of these projects may provide SMART members in other locations with the opportunity to travel for work. For more information on traveling to jobsites, contact your local business manager and visit the SMART sheet metal job bank.
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