Two years of pro-worker progress create jobs; SMART members directly benefit from new work opportunities

On Nov. 15, 2021, after years of political pressure from SMART and fellow unions, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), now known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will invest more than $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

The International Training Institute (ITI), National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) and Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) will all benefit from the passage of this legislation, as the law will bolster the need for training more SMART members.

The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

Specific parts of the legislation will directly impact the SMART workforce. Below are some of the highlights of the law and where growth is anticipated over the next five years:

Energy efficiency in public schools

Under the law, the Department of Energy (DOE) will have $500 million to run a competitive grant program for public schools to make energy efficiency improvements. This program aims to improve indoor air quality and make repairs or renovations that directly reduce energy costs on school grounds.

In addition, states have been allocated funds to enhance energy security, advance energy initiatives and maximize the benefits of energy efficiency. Through additional grant programs, states are encouraged to establish initiatives to conduct commercial or residential energy audits or upgrades and retrofits.

Efficient building envelopes, testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) and indoor air quality will be instrumental in retrofitting school buildings and new construction projects.

TAB technicians and supervisors needed

The Energy Auditor Grant Training Program will provide funding — up to $2 million per state — to train individuals to conduct audits or surveys on commercial and residential buildings. Training centers that do not already offer TAB should look to pair up with their state to apply for these grants or contact the ITI for assistance.

Opportunities to change local building codes

A total of $225 million has been designated for a competitive grant program within the Building Technologies Office to enable sustained, cost-effective implementation of updated building energy codes. This funding is designed to be distributed over five years, averaging $45 million per year.

These grants are available to states and tribal governments — either alone or in partnership with local building code agencies, codes and standards developers, relevant professional organizations, local and utility energy efficiency programs or consumer advocates. The overarching goal is to help understaffed and underfunded local governments upgrade their building codes to the most up-to-date energy efficiency standards.

New markets and emerging technologies

Building information modeling (BIM) will be more important than ever. Experts are predicting that connected construction technologies like BIM will drive the construction industry in the future. A larger integration of modularization and prefabrication in the design and build process is at the forefront.

The law will open new markets for SMART members and present new challenges in the training and deployment of those members. Over the next five years, we will all need to work together to press for funding for our registered apprenticeship programs.

We have a substantial opportunity to change and update building codes at the local, state and national levels. And we have a once-in-a-generation chance to put more members to work.

Safety is paramount

When the initial hiring begins, a labor shortage is anticipated. One of the main concerns with filling a large labor gap is doing so in a safe manner. SMOHIT and the ITI have created training and have the resources needed for work to be completed correctly and safely.

Moody’s Analytics, an economic research company, projects that the law’s peak labor force impact will occur in the fourth quarter of 2025, when there will be 872,000 more jobs as a result of the law. Of those jobs, about 461,000 are expected to be in construction; 227,000 in manufacturing; 75,000 in transportation and distribution; 35,000 in government; and 73,000 in other industries.

Apprenticeships will be more important than ever as the law is implemented. While we have the tools to train the next generation of sheet metal workers, we need the companion Build Back Better legislation to provide more funding for training. If you haven’t done so already, contact your senators and tell them to pass the Build Back Better Act.

It is time to get to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

On April 4, 2022, members from across SMART gathered in Washington, D.C. to hear from SM Local 40 (Hartford, Conn.) Regional Manager John Nimmons about important indoor air quality (IAQ) legislation for sheet metal workers in Connecticut — based on an earlier legislative effort championed by SM Local 25 (Northern N.J.) Business Manager Joe Demark — that demonstrates how vital it is for SMART members to advocate in their local governments.

As of late spring 2022, multiple Connecticut State Senate bills, the most prominent being the Act Improving Indoor Air Quality in Public Schools (SB 423), are making their way through the legislative process with the backing of a labor coalition comprising SMART, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the United Auto Workers (UAW) and more. Despite a deeply divided political climate, SB 423 garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont allocating $90 million in his proposed budget to IAQ. Importantly, Nimmons noted, “We got the language in [the bills] that we wanted, that will bring the work to us.”

“When we are involved in the legislative process from the start, we can ensure that the most qualified technicians — SMART members — are the people making sure our schools and buildings are up to par in terms of IAQ.”

The legislative journey started in February 2021, when Jeremy Zeedyk from NEMI met with Nimmons to talk about IAQ bills they hoped to pass. After forming a task force containing SMART, SMACNA, the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB), the UAW, various education and health commissioners, the state department of labor and more, Nimmons and several task force partners created a subcommittee, the Coalition for Healthy Air in Schools, which included contractors, teachers, school nurses and others. In weekly meetings, aided by labor lobbyists in Hartford and the state building trades, the worker-powered subcommittee hammered out the details of a bill that would meet the needs of all parties. “These are all the little coalitions that we had going along, and we used each one of them to pull [the bill together],” Nimmons said. “We didn’t get here overnight.”

In some ways, this legislation was years in the making: SMART members supported the candidacy of the retired teacher-turned-state senator who is now championing the bill. Additionally, it took working with a variety of parties — from the state commissioner of labor to the local vocational teachers union — to make sure every detail of the bill met high labor standards: using Connecticut OSHA requirements, providing adequate IAQ reporting procedures and whistleblower protections, and expanding the standards of existing schools to also apply to new construction.

The impact the bills will have on SMART members is tremendous: They will be the workers called upon to retrofit and construct facilities to meet improved IAQ standards. “This will dramatically change the work hours for my local,” Nimmons explained.

General President Joseph Sellers addresses the SMART South East District Council in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in early May, outlining the IAQ work opportunities included in the recently passed infrastructure legislation.

The Connecticut IAQ bills are closely modeled on legislation currently in the pipeline in New Jersey — which, similarly to Connecticut, could never have found forward progress without the efforts of SMART, particularly Local 25 Business Manager Joe Demark and NEMI Director of Training Chris Ruch. Currently, Demark is working to push the bill through the New Jersey Assembly, following prior collaboration with former N.J. Senate President Steve Sweeney. And while the bill has yet to become law, Demark, Ruch and John Hamilton, chief operating officer of TABB, are striving to make sure the legislation includes strong language that will benefit SMART members. As Demark noted, lawmakers — even those with a blue-collar background — don’t always have the knowledge or experience to guarantee that HVAC and IAQ work goes to technicians with the right levels of expertise. It’s crucial that SMART sheet metal workers make their presence felt throughout the legislative process for the benefit of local unions – and the local communities whose lives will be impacted.

“Government officials and communities across North America are beginning to realize how important indoor air quality is for keeping our kids, families, friends and neighbors safe and healthy,” SMART General President Joseph Sellers explained. “When we are involved in the legislative process from the start, we can ensure that the most qualified technicians — SMART members — are the people making sure our schools and buildings are up to par in terms of IAQ.”

“This is going to mean a lot of work hours for our people,” Demark added.

SMART has been instrumental in working to pass IAQ legislation across the country. In Nevada, Assembly Bill 257 requires all public and charter schools in the state to assess and upgrade (if needed) their HVAC and filtration systems once federal money already allocated for this purpose becomes available at the state level. “With fire and life safety, and now with indoor air quality, members will have more opportunities to branch out into other aspects of being a sheet metal worker to increase hours and market share,” SMART Local 88’s (Las Vegas) business manager at the time, Jeff Proffitt, said in June 2021, when the bill passed. In California, meanwhile, AB 841 — signed into law in 2020 — will direct more than $600 million in energy efficiency funding to test, adjust and repair HVAC systems in public schools. The best part for SMART members: The legislation requires the work be performed by a TABB-certified technician to receive funding.

Whether in New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Nevada or beyond, IAQ legislation is emerging as a potentially bipartisan issue with robust benefits for local communities — and stellar work opportunities for SMART members. To begin lobbying for IAQ bills in your state, contact your local union leadership or director of government affairs.

The International Training Institute’s (ITI) Ventilation Verification for Indoor Air Quality curriculum took another step forward this year when the ITI hosted eight JATC instructors at its first train-the-trainer course at Local 359 in Phoenix. It was the second component of the training — the first half was held remotely.

Ventilation verification is a physical assessment of an existing commercial HVAC system completed by a skilled, trained and certified technician. The result is a report that design professionals can rely on when recommending adjustments, repairs, upgrades or replacements. School districts and building owners can then make educated decisions on the verification or recommended improvements to their building indoor air quality — from virus and biologic mitigation to carbon dioxide level control.

The Ventilation Verification for Indoor Air Quality curriculum provides a basic heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) foundation in addition to sample forms and hands-on skill assessments. It was designed to be customizable by a given JATC to meet a student’s or class’s level of experience and expertise. For the instructors learning the curriculum, once they have the overall picture of the training material and curriculum, they can tailor it to each level of training required.

“If a JATC has experienced HVAC, TAB or service instructors, they can offer this curriculum immediately — even if they do not have an installed TAB lab. The HVAC equipment that runs the building of the training center may work for demonstrations or practice,” said Pat Pico, one of the framers of the curriculum and a member of the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB) Hall of Fame.

While the instructor class is delivered partially online, the hands-on, in-person component of the class provides the most benefits because instructors can “get [their] hands on the instruments and equipment and build that muscle memory,” added Pico, who is also the training coordinator and TABB supervisor for Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 and the Bay Area Training Fund.

Although the initial planning for the curriculum began long before the pandemic — as a means to address improper ventilation and increased levels of carbon dioxide in classrooms — it came together while the world was still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. Development of this new curriculum began at the end of 2020, and the first virtual pilot course went live in May 2021 — a rapid turnaround under normal circumstances.

“We were able to respond quickly because we had subject-matter experts already in place and familiar with ITI’s process of curriculum development,” Pico said. “With this curriculum, we can show any federal, state or local government entities that we have the resources and ability to train people to get the work done properly.”

At Local 104 in Northern California, where Pico is a TAB and HVAC instructor, every apprentice receives HVAC fundamentals and basic TAB skills as part of their overall training. If a member has received an education that focused on HVAC fabrication and installation, this curriculum can add skills and knowledge to keep them prepared for the opportunities in ventilation verification assessment — even if those opportunities have yet to hit their corner of the country.

“The curriculum can make our members better sheet metal workers by adding skills and knowledge that helps explain HVAC system functionality,” Pico said. “Now, sheet metal workers have the tools to recognize potential design mistakes before fabrication and installation and can reduce potential errors in ductwork installation. They can recognize how a system is supposed to operate and function. They ask key questions, so the work is done right the first time. We sell that quality, so we can be the best in the industry.”

Additional classes are scheduled throughout the year for training centers that want to get into the game.

“We’re hopeful end-users see the success of ventilation verification assessments and it leads to more opportunities for our contractors and our members, as well as to a healthy building environment for occupants,” Pico said. “If you need an instructor to take this curriculum and bring the knowledge back to their locals and training centers, send them to this valuable class.”

Click here to check the ITI’s course catalog for the next Ventilation Verification for Indoor Air Quality train-the-trainer course.

The Tradeswomen Heroes Awards program honors two apprentices and two journey-level workers in the United States and Canada that set an exemplary example both on and off the jobsite

In July 2022, yet another SMART sister earned recognition from North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) for her hard work and proven track record: Annet Del Rosario, a 20-year journeyworker out of SMART Local 206 (San Diego, California).  

“Her positive attitude and relentless work ethic are infectious to those around her, and I can’t think of anyone that deserves more accolades for everything she means to our local and those lucky enough to be around her,” said Local 206 in the NABTU press release announcing Annet’s NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes Award win. 

Annet joined Local 206 in March 2002, committing to the union’s five-year apprenticeship program in August 2003 and turning out as a journeyperson in 2008. Since then, she has worked in the field as well as the shop on the HVAC side; she’s also served several terms as a trustee and an e-board member, and in her current position, she is the shop foreman at Able H&A – the first female to fill each position in the local’s history. Annet’s tireless advocacy continues off the jobsite as well: She created and is president of Building Trades Sisters, an all-female union trades group in San Diego.  

“Annet is the shining example of what can be done when someone puts their mind to it,” the press release concluded. “She has always wanted to put in the work to receive the rewards.”  

SMART congratulates Sister Annet Del Rosario for this well-deserved recognition!  

Rendering of the concept design of the all-new $5.6 billion Ford electric vehicle mega campus in Stanton, Tenn. Image courtesy of Ford Media Center.

In new podcast episode, SMART Local 4 business manager details enormous amount of sheet metal work coming to Tenn.

A new $5.6 billion Ford Motor Company electric vehicle plant in Stanton, Tenn. will be built entirely union, creating approximately 3,000 union positions during construction, including 300-400 sheet metal worker jobs.

“This thing is going to be huge,” said Local 4 Business Manager John Williams during a guest appearance on America’s Work Force Union Podcast in early July. “There’s going to be a job for just about anybody on this site.”

“This thing is going to be huge. There’s going to be a job for just about anybody on this site.”

– SMART Local 4 Business Manager John Williams

Williams’ conversation with host Ed Ferenc touched on a range of topics, from the history of SMART to applying for federal indoor air quality (IAQ) grants. The most notable topic by far, though, was the upcoming construction of the Ford EV plant.

“It’s going to be a game-changer for us,” he told Ferenc. “There’s no doubt it’s going to grow the union.”

Williams is a fourth-generation SMART member whose great grandfather joined the union in 1914, working as a sheet metal worker on the railroad in Norfolk, Va. Following in his footsteps – as well as those of his grandfather and father before him – Williams serves as both the business manager and financial secretary-treasurer of Local 4, which currently has approximately 350 members. That, Williams underscores, is why this plant – along with an upcoming battery plant in Kentucky – is such a big deal for area sheet metal workers.


Listen to the full July 5 podcast episode on the
America’s Work Force Union Podcast.


The project was by no means guaranteed to move forward. Tennessee’s anti-worker, so-called “right-to-work” laws make it difficult for unions to secure such mega projects, and the state governor owns one of the largest mechanical contractors in Tennessee (a nonunion company).

“There was some fight at the state capitol,” Williams said. “[Ford] had a little bit of pushback, because our state isn’t too union friendly.” But Ford refused to compromise – and, as a result, Local 4 has the chance to employ its membership and embark on an enormous recruiting campaign. To meet the numbers needed for the project, the local hopes to dramatically increase its membership. Helping with that goal, Williams said, is the fact that Ford aims to have approximately 30% of the job site’s workforce be in training.

“We’ve been going into the schools, we’ve been hitting some of the jobsites and telling people, ‘Hey, you can get some free training here,’ ” he said, referring to SMART’s earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program and state-of-the-art training center. With the enormous amount of work coming in, he added, “It’s just a good time to get into the construction trade.”   

In addition to the Ford plant, which Williams expects to begin construction later in the year, Fenerc and Williams discussed Local 4’s efforts to take advantage of federal funds for state and local COVID-19 fiscal recovery – which would secure even more work for the membership. As part of the economic bounce-back from COVID-19, the Biden Administration has allocated funds for state and local governments, as well as other organizations, to apply for grants related to improving indoor air quality. That means local governments, schools, commercial buildings, residential complexes and more can apply for funding to upgrade ductwork and improve ventilation. This is especially important in places like nursing homes and schools, Williams said, estimating that approximately 75% of schools need retrofitting to ensure kids are breathing clean air.

“This is a big deal, because indoor air quality effects everybody. We want to make sure our children are safe. The same goes for wherever people congregate.”

– SMART Local 4 Business Manager John Williams

“This is a big deal, because indoor air quality effects everybody,” he added. “We want to make sure our children are safe. The same goes for wherever people congregate.”

Unfortunately, while the funding criteria makes clear that organizations should partner with highly skilled, expertly trained workers for IAQ improvements – i.e., SMART members – there are no prevailing wage requirements. Still, Williams said, Local 4 intends to partner with area organizations to help them apply for the grants and win the funding needed to make IAQ improvements. And while they can’t require those organizations to use union labor, they can make it abundantly clear that SMART members are the highest-qualified workers for the job.

“We definitely want our contractors in there doing the work, and we want [local organizations] to know we’re here to help them get that grant money,” he explained. “[Even without prevailing wages,] we’re still going to look out for the worker. We want to make sure that people are getting paid right, we want to make sure people get good benefits, that they get a living wage for their family.”

As General President Sellers announced, years of hard work and sacrifices made by National Pension Fund participants, locals and employers have paid off.

In addition to this, the Biden Administration announced the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge in late March. This challenge is a call to action and a set of best practices to assist building owners with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants.

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge relies on significant input from SMART and our experts at the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI), who assisted in devising its goals and objectives.

The challenge includes the creation of a clean indoor air action plan, practices for optimizing fresh air ventilation, the enhancement of air filtration and cleaning, and community engagement around the importance of enhanced air ventilation to ensure this issue — and its solution — is prioritized by leaders in the public and private sectors. This ensures the expanded contribution of our signatory contractors employing SMART sheet metal workers to lead this challenge.

As the Biden Administration rolls out the historic bipartisan infrastructure bill, modernizing the prevailing wages attached to these projects will ensure fair wages and protect workers employed in the sheet metal industry.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it was updating its Davis-Bacon rules, which affect members employed in the construction industry — especially those working for employers who compete on publicly funded projects. This is the first time in 40 years the Department of Labor has performed a comprehensive review of these regulations, and it couldn’t come at a better time. As the Biden Administration rolls out the historic bipartisan infrastructure bill, modernizing the prevailing wages attached to these projects will ensure fair wages and protect workers employed in the sheet metal industry. Structural changes to the administration of these new projects are what will make the difference in guaranteeing that not only are they built on time and under budget, but also that unscrupulous employers do not undermine the wages and standards SMART and our signatory employers have spent decades creating.

As you will find within this issue of the Members’ Journal, SMART has also updated our union’s website at www.smart-union.org. The website is all-inclusive and interactive, with landing pages for content and material found nowhere else online — such as an updated Resources section for sheet metal workers, TD material and forms, Canadian resources, an easier-to-use Sheet Metal Job Bank, membership information only available to you, links to fund material, dozens of resource libraries and more. Member information is accessed via a Member Portal and customized to each individual member’s needs and experience. Visit the website at www.smart-union.org and click on the Member Portal to create an account. Instructions for SM and TD members are linked through the QR Code below.

Brothers and sisters, we live in exciting times — we are taking advantage of new technologies to update our services to you. Make sure you continue to revisit the Member Portal, as we will update information there with breaking news and the latest resources.

Fraternally,

Joseph Powell
SMART General Secretary Treasurer

After years of false starts, President Biden signed America’s most impactful infrastructure bill in its history.

Delivered on bipartisan votes in both the Senate and House of Representatives, the Infrastructure Bill will provide $1.2 Trillion in infrastructure funding over the next five years. To highlight the importance of SMART members, and the labor movement in this bill’s passage and our importance in rebuilding and transporting people and goods in America, the President invited and spoke with 5 rank and file SMART members from the transportation and sheet metal industries who joined me at the signing ceremony. It was a proud and historic day which symbolically kicked off years of new work opportunities and revitalized transportation network for future Americans.

The bill can create jobs for existing SMART members and spur new union jobs, which will help us grow the power of union.

The bill includes over $1 billion in funding for Indoor Air Quality for schools along with commercial and residential buildings that can be used for badly needed HVAC upgrades.  There is also funding for thousands of electric school buses to help school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero emission buses that will create more jobs for SMART members employed not only in their production, but also in their operation.

The bill includes over $1 billion in funding for Indoor Air Quality for schools along with commercial and residential buildings that can be used for badly needed HVAC upgrades. 

The legislation also invests $25 billion in airport and $17 billion in port infrastructure a to not only address repair and maintenance backlogs, but invest in keeping America’s supply chain moving to ensure goods are delivered with speed and efficiency to market. 

And all of this will be done with funding conditional on the use of American made products and material – an important diversion from the past, where government purchases and toothless Buy America enforcement undermined American workers and jobs.

SMART members in the transportation industry are also one of the key winners, with Amtrak’s annual appropriations doubled along with an additional $3 billion for badly needed railroad crossings; $36 billion for Regional Passenger Rail, $16 Billion for Amtrak’s National Network, and important progress on bus and transit operator safety with public transportation agencies ordered to enhance safety plans, safety training, and procedures to reduce assaults on vehicle operators.

Brothers and sisters, this has been a long time coming.  We have seen a tidal wave of the Biden Administration  pro-labor and pro-worker developments in the past year.  From the passage of the Infrastructure and Investment Act, to the American Rescue Plan to critical pension relief and to all the progress made in between, America’s workers have been the direct beneficiaries of the change that has come to Washington.  We accomplished this because we stood together for bread and butter working family issues.

There is still much work to be done.  We must work together at the federal, state and local level to make sure the promise of the Infrastructure and Investment Act is realized in our communities. This means we’ll need to work with our policy makers on implementation to help make sure the funding comes to truly create good, union jobs.

Let’s continue to stand together as we work to expand on the progress made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.  We still have the chance to add millions of new sheet metal  and transportation hours with the addition of thousands of jobs through the Build Back Better Act along with critical labor law reform that is long overdue.  Text the word PASS to 67336 (message and data rates may apply) to let your Senators know that now is the time to continue to put the needs of working families first by passing the budget reconciliation bill.

Thank you and please stay safe!

Fraternally,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.