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.