A Local 16 member holds a piece of metal dedicated to Carrie Barber.

Chelsey Bus recently graduated from her apprenticeship at Local 16 in Portland, Oregon. During her five years of training, she experienced much of the same adversity that other women in the trades face; although SMART has made great strides to recruit and retain women, they remain a minority of the membership. That’s what makes stories of “I Got Your Back” solidarity – including Bus’s – so vital for the growth of our union.

When Bus began her apprenticeship, she said her duties involved menial work, like moving materials. But she began to see a shift in her job responsibilities around the time she was assigned to work at General Sheet Metal in Clackamas, Oregon, on an architectural sheet metal job.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience working on the architectural side,” explained Bus. “So I was kind of surprised when I was given the assignment.”

Nevertheless, Bus thrived. Over the course of her apprenticeship, she worked in residential HVAC, commercial HVAC, TAB, a mechanical shop and an architectural shop.

While working on an architectural project at General Sheet Metal, her friend and project manager, Carrie Barber, passed away unexpectedly.

“During that period, immediately after he passed away, people started telling me that he had gone to bat for me. He stuck his neck out and believed in me and got me placements. I had no idea,” Bus said. “His encouragement and faith in me were really touching. He had my back; I didn’t even know it.”

Bus said Barber’s faith in her was inspiring, and she plans to pay it forward – both on and off the job.

“I plan to make an effort to be that person for others,” she said. “I want everyone to experience that level of support, that same feeling that I’ve got your back.”

Jeremy Woolley, left, and Keith Haas.

Since SMART’s “I Got Your Back” campaign began last summer, members across North America have taken action: sharing photos of themselves with their mentors at work and displaying the solidarity that makes our union strong. In March 2022, SM Local 46 (Rochester, N.Y.) relayed an especially impactful “I Got Your Back” story from Brother Keith Haas, demonstrating how union brotherhood and sisterhood extends well beyond the job — and how mentorship helps combat misinformation and strengthen our union, one member at a time.

“Jeremy [Woolley] has had my back both figuratively and metaphorically,” Haas shared. “While we were working at a nonunion company, Jeremy knew that I was unhappy with the direction the company was going and that I was looking for a new job. I knew nothing about the union other than all of the lies and false information that was given out during company meetings.”

“Jeremy was the one who connected me with SMART Local 46,” he added. “After talking to Jon at Local 46, I realized that the unions are not out to get you as my previous employer tried to scare us into believing.”

“I’ve always wanted to properly thank Jeremy for not only these acts of having my back but all that he has done for others as well!”

– SMART Local 46 member Keith Haas

For Haas, Woolley’s solidarity included looking out for his personal health and well-being. “After starting with the union, I hurt my back and was unable to finish the AC I was installing at my house,” Haas explained. “Jeremy not only helped me, but would try to get me to stop working and allow him to do everything. I probably should have listened to him, but I am pretty stubborn. I did slow down and reluctantly allowed him to do most of the hard work.”

“I’ve always wanted to properly thank Jeremy for not only these acts of having my back but all that he has done for others as well!”

“After having back surgery and returning to work, Jeremy told the other employees that if he finds out that they are allowing me to lift anything that he will physically harm them. While I know that Jeremy is not a violent person, all of his tattoos and his threat worked. If I tried to lift anything on the job my coworkers would call Jeremy to report that I was violating his rules.”

Woolley’s commitment to the foundational values of the labor movement — workplace dignity, human equality and the strength of a collective voice, to name a few — helped Haas receive the respect and care he deserved, both on and off the job. And, as Haas told his local, “Joining the union has had a huge positive influence on not just me, but my wife and kids also. I am now able to provide better benefits and actually be home on time for dinner and bedtime.”

“I’ve always wanted to properly thank Jeremy for not only these acts of having my back but all that he has done for others as well!”

To share your story of mentorship and solidarity, email mentors@smart-union.org or post on social media with the hashtag #SMARTIGOTYOURBACK.

Michael Wilson is a new SM Local 206 (San Diego, Calif.) member working at the new San Marcos Medical Center in San Marcos, Calif. He recently shared how much he is enjoying his new career and learning every day from his journeyperson, Troy Lewis, who has been a union sheet metal worker and mentor to many for over 20 years. They are both proud to have each other’s back, as well as the back of every SMART member they work with in the future.

SMART SM Local 219 (Rockford, Ill.) Journeyperson Mike Cassidy is taking time every day to pass on his 29 years of experience to fourth-year Apprentice Sandy Peters.

Sandy Peters, left, and Mike Cassidy.

SMART’s “I Got Your Back” campaign aims to promote solidarity and a safe haven among all members of our union. The campaign is focused on promoting 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.

Share an “I Got Your Back” sticker with them to show that they and YOU will have all members’ backs.

It lets a member who is in need of an ally have a safe place to turn.

Send your story about those who mentored you to mentors@smart-union.org or share on social media with the hashtag #SMARTIGOTYOURBACK.

Speakers and panels also focused on the importance of mentorship, moving a pro-labor agenda under the Biden administration, rail and transit safety, lessons learned from local SMART leaders and safe buildings post-COVID

Vice President Kamala Harris

SMART conducted a virtual business agents’ conference in July 2021. More than 300 local and national SMART leaders, as well as special guests that included Vice President Kamala Harris, participated in the one-day online gathering. An in-person conference had been scheduled to take place in New York City, but due to the unpredictability of the pandemic and rising COVID cases in the summer, it was changed to virtual.
The overall theme of the conference was “I Got Your Back,” with many plenary speeches and breakout sessions focused on the importance of union solidarity and working together to build a culture within SMART characterized by inclusion and mutual support.
“The past 16 months caused us to reflect on what is most important,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers in his keynote speech to the conference. “We leaned on each other to get through this crisis, and union solidarity is our foundation. That is why this year’s theme is ‘I Got Your Back’.”

“The past 16 months caused us to reflect on what is most important. We leaned on each other to get through this crisis, and union solidarity is our foundation. That is why this year’s theme is ‘I Got Your Back’.”

– SMART General President Joseph Sellers

Sellers pointed out that, at the 2019 SMART General Convention, delegates took a hard look at how their sisters and brothers were treated at work and how this impacts SMART members and industries. Delegates unanimously adopted amendments and resolutions that aimed to make the union more inclusive and added language to the SMART Constitution that makes harassment, bullying and hazing chargeable offenses.
“Now, two years later, we need action,” said Sellers. “Words in our constitution are not enough. Goals and intentions are not enough. We are putting words to action… We are asking each member to stand up and look out for our fellow sisters and brothers.”

SMART General President Joseph Sellers
SMART General President Joseph Sellers

The week of the BA conference, SMART international mailed to every local an “I Got Your Back” campaign kit that included stickers, instructions and promotional materials.

“This campaign provides our membership with the opportunity to recognize those members who were there for them — who supported them — and to pay it forward to the next generation. When members see a fellow member wearing the ‘I Got Your Back’ sticker on the jobsite, they will know they have an ally to turn to. They will know that member has their back.”
SMART General Secretary- Treasurer Joe Powell, who taught hundreds of apprentices during his time as an apprenticeship instructor at Local 206 in San Diego, underscored the importance of mentorship for SMART members.

SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell

“We have all had mentors who had our backs during our careers,” said Powell. “And it is important for us to mentor and be an ally to those entering the industry behind us.”
SMACNA President Angie Simon echoed SMART’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and mutual support in her video presentation, noting that the signatory sheet metal sector “continues to shine,” but still has room for growth when it comes to recruitment and keeping up to date with technology.
“The future of our industry is not represented by one color, one race, or one gender,” said Simon, “but will depend upon the best and brightest being drawn to our industry by our training, our craftsmanship, the economic opportunity and unrestricted opportunity to succeed.”
Many speakers noted the unprecedented challenges and stresses faced by SMART members over the past year due to the pandemic and related economic turmoil and how members had risen to these challenges time and time again.
“You are the essential workers, representing our members throughout this pandemic,” said Sellers. “You have endured shutdowns, converted hospitals for COVID care, and manufactured the air handling equipment and goods that have kept our nations running and the air we breathe safe and clean.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten

NABTU President Sean McGarvey
NABTU Pres. Sean McGarvey

SMART TD Pres. Jeremy Ferguson

Local 265 Bus. Rep. Louise Medina
Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson underscored the impacts of COVID-19 on TD members, taking a moment to remember the 19 active TD members who had died due to COVID-19 as of mid-July. Ferguson also noted that many bus operators, freight rail members and Amtrak members were furloughed early in the pandemic as schools and offices closed, businesses slowed down and tourism ceased.
He emphasized the work SMART has been doing throughout the pandemic around rail safety, rail and transit funding and coordinating with the sheet metal division to work with the Biden Administration to advance initiatives important to SMART members. He added that most Amtrak members were recalled after passage of the American Rescue Plan, which SMART actively lobbied to support.
“We are continuing to battle to keep two people on every train, following the attacks on our crew consist agreements shortly after I took office,” added Ferguson. “Most importantly, we continue to fight for workplace safety, as our union has seen a startling number of fatalities and amputations in the last two years as a result of the previous U.S. president’s administration creating what I will call a ‘deplorable safety culture’ — one where profits and shareholders are valued more than our members lives or the federal safety regulations previously written to protect them.”

“We are continuing to battle to keep two people on every train, following the attacks on our crew consist agreements shortly after I took office.”

– SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson

In a video address to the BA conference, Vice President Kamala Harris underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to standing with working families.
“President Joe Biden and I are determined to be the most pro-union administration in American history,” said Harris. She noted that the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden, allocated nearly $31 billion toward supporting transit systems and workers impacted by the pandemic, as well as strengthening pension plans for workers across industries.
“We could not have passed the American Rescue Plan without your support and leadership,” she added.
Vice President Harris also addressed bipartisan infrastructure legislation, noting that SMART members know, perhaps better than most, that America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of update. Proposed infrastructure legislation, she said, “will put Americans to work in good, union jobs, fixing our roads and our bridges and modernizing our transit system.”
Other guest speakers included American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and North America’s Building Trades (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey.
Local 265 Business Representative Louise Medina spoke to conference participants in her capacity as president of the newly formed SMART Recruitment and Retention Council. Quoting from the council’s mission statement, she said it will help guide efforts “to recruit, retain and promote diverse groups in our organization and to ensure workplace equality within our industry; and to promote respect, inclusion and safe, non-hostile work environments at all levels of SMART.”
Medina, who also serves on the SMART Women’s Committee, said the new council plans to hold meetings twice a year, hopefully in person, to discuss these issues and develop resources, trainings and other materials to support locals and regional councils in recruiting and retaining underrepresented workers. If you have questions or need information on how to affiliate with the council, email Louise Medina at louise@smart265.org.

SMART Director of Education Chris Carlough, left, and Local 285 Business Manager Bob Gougeon.

SMART Director of Governmental Affairs Steve Dodd discusses ventilation verification specification.

The “Safe Buildings Post-COVID” panel.

After the main conference plenary, delegates could choose among the following breakout sessions:
Profiles in Leadership
This session addressed fundamentals of leadership and featured interviews with local leaders discussing strategic thinking, challenges they have faced and leadership lessons learned. SMART Director of Education Chris Carlough led discussions with Local 285 Business Manager Bob Gougeon, NW Regional Council President Tim Carter and Local 265 Business Manager John Daniel.
Beyond Bias
This session featured Dushaw Hockett of SPACES introducing the concept of “implicit bias” and breaking down examples of what it can look like. The session concluded with a live Q&A session with General President Sellers and General Secretary- Treasurer Powell.
Safe Buildings Post-COVID
This session featured a panel discussing what every SMART leader needs to know about indoor air quality and proper ventilation coming out of the pandemic. Panelists included NEMIC Northeast Regional Representative Jeremy Zeedyk, ITI Field Representative Darrell Garrison, SMART Director of Governmental Affairs Steve Dodd and SMART Director of Canadian Affairs Chris Paswisty.