Make no mistake: In the United States, the upcoming midterm election is vitally important to the advancement of the pro-worker agenda. Normally this would sound cliché, but all it takes is a look at current events to understand what our country is facing. Our jobs, our democracy and our families’ futures are on the line, and the decisions that will be made in the coming two years will determine our success moving forward.

The members of our union have made historic progress in the past 21 months. Instead of a cold shoulder for labor and our interests, we now have open door access in the Oval Office and in Congress, giving us a voice on decisions that affect the lives of workers and their families. We now have a seat at the table; we are able to advocate for your livelihood on matters of policy and planning. This new access has paid off. Time after time, our allies in Congress and the current administration did more than elicit words of support; they acted on your priorities as union men and women.

In fact, no administration or Congress since the 1930s has accomplished so much working with labor in so little time. Since January 2021, we have seen the elimination of the Cadillac tax on members’ and retirees’ health care; the strengthening of multiemployer retirement programs and retirement security; the reintroduction of a two-person crew rule that would make the rule of two a federal regulation; and a historic infrastructure package that goes beyond funds for roads and bridges, directing federal resources to critical rail infrastructure improvements — with a real safety review and operator protections — as well as cleaner and safer building indoor air quality (IAQ) work, all of which will deliver thousands of jobs to SMART members. Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), introduced by the previous administration to undermine our long-standing registered apprenticeship programs, were eliminated. This new administration and Congress prioritized a pro-organizing initiative to ensure that workers looking to form a union and strengthen your collective bargaining power were met with serious support.

The members of our union have made historic progress in the past 21 months.

All of these substantial advances were made because of the work we put in to support pro-labor elected officials from both parties. That includes officials like Don Bacon, a Republican member of Congress from Nebraska who stands with SMART members on the issues that matter to working families, as well as Tim Ryan — a long-time proworker candidate who never forgot his blue-collar values and has spent his career standing up for workers. We don’t look at party label — we look to support those who do more than just promise; who act on our behalf.

Unfortunately, there are special interests who are looking to reverse our gains. A network of anti-worker groups and corporations are quietly funding and assisting those opposed to our values. They want a return to the days when workers had no say in the direction of this nation, and they see themselves as the sole arbiters of what is best for us, our families and our jobs. They care only about their own profit and power. We cannot hand the reins back over to them; we cannot let them rule over our lives and dictate our families’ futures.

We have come far in only 21 months – and we still have ground to cover as we work to make sure working families are prioritized in the halls of power. I urge you to vote on November 8th to secure your future by locking in the gains we have made.

In solidarity,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.

Will Griffin (second from left) with his family and Vice President Kamala Harris

On Tuesday, April 12, SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and others rallied at the SMART SM Local 19 (Philadelphia, Pa.) union hall to publicize an important Department of Labor (DOL) initiative.

On April 8, the DOL Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on workplace heat hazards, launching a targeted effort to protect workers from the threat of heat-related illness which, as a result of climate change, has increased in 18 of the last 19 summers. Workers suffer more than 3,500 injuries and/or illnesses related to heat each year, with low-wage workers and workers of color disproportionately impacted. With the implementation of the NEP — which is effective starting April 8 and will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended — the DOL aims to protect workers in more than 70 industries, including those that employ SMART workers. Learn more at OSHA.gov/heat.

GP Sellers addresses the crowd at the Local 19 union hall in Philadelphia.

Facts on the NEP from OSHA:

The NEP is a nationwide enforcement mechanism for OSHA to proactively inspect workplaces for heat-related hazards in general industry, maritime, construction or agriculture operation alleging hazardous exposures to heat (outdoors and/or indoors).

  • This means that OSHA can now launch heat-related inspections on high-risk worksites before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.

The NEP encourages employers to protect workers from heat hazards by providing employee access to water, rest, shade, adequate training, and implementing acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

  • The NEP contains both enforcement and outreach/ compliance assistance components.

The NEP establishes heat priority days when the heat index is expected to be 80°F or higher. On heat priority days:

  • OSHA will initiate compliance assistance in the targeted high-risk industries.
  • OSHA will also continue to inspect any alleged heat-related fatality/catastrophe, complaint or referral regardless of whether the worksite falls within a targeted industry of this NEP.

OSHA will conduct pre-planned inspections in targeted high-risk industries on any day that the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory for the local area.

OSHA also recognizes that many businesses want to do the right thing by developing heat illness prevention plans to keep their employees safe.

  • On heat priority days, OSHA field staff will engage in proactive outreach and technical/compliance assistance to help keep workers safe on the job.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at SM Local 19.

In addition to the NEP, Vice President Harris, Secretary Walsh and President Shuler reaffirmed the Biden administration’s support for organized labor and working people across the country. Following an introduction by Local 19 third-year apprentice Will Griffin, in which he spoke about his journey in the trade and the benefits he’s experienced since joining SMART, Vice President Harris discussed planned improvements to schools and other local infrastructure using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding — improvements to be completed by members of organized labor, including SMART. “It will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“[The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“President Joe Biden and I are determined to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history,” she added. “Because you see, we are clear and we know, each and every day in ways big and small, unions change lives. Unions negotiate better wages and safer working conditions for millions of workers around our country.


General President Joseph Sellers Jr. recently met with SMART TD general chairpersons at the SMART TD Western General Chairperson’s Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Click here to watch a video of GP Sellers addressing the issues SMART TD members face.