Waters Mechanical was founded by Brandon Waters in 2000. His father was the owner of a union signatory firm, so he had some familiarity with the union. The company was struggling to grow its sheet metal workforce, which had dwindled to six sheet metal workers. They could not find enough qualified, experienced sheet metal workers, and it was impacting the company’s ability to grow and perform more projects.

As part of their organizing efforts, SM Local 85 (Atlanta, Ga.) contacted Waters to explain how the local could solve the company’s qualified sheet metal workforce shortage through its hiring hall, apprenticeship training program, continuous worker recruiting, turnkey benefit programs and more.

After a series of meetings between the company and the local, Business Manager Steve Langley signed an agreement with Waters Mechanical on February 14th, 2022.

The local began providing all classifications of sheet metal workers to the company. The company’s six existing sheet metal employees were offered membership in Local 85. Waters also joined Local 85 as an owner-member because he saw the value in participating in the union’s benefit programs.

Waters Mechanical successfully performs projects in the outlying areas of the huge Atlanta metro markets, as well as projects in smaller cities in middle and southern Georgia, like Savannah, Macon/Warner Robbins, Valdosta, St. Simonds Island and Augusta/Fort Gordon.

The partnership with Waters Mechanical is helping Local 85 to expand its market presence in these areas on schools, government buildings and light commercial/retail projects. These projects are mostly in outlying areas where the local previously had little to no presence.

Waters Mechanical opened a second office in the Atlanta area to focus on the northern part of the state. In addition to supplying sheet metal workers, Local 85 also assisted the company with finding the leadership personnel needed to run the expanded operations.

Today, the company has more than quadrupled its number of sheet metal workers and continues to steadily land new projects — which call for more sheet metal workers from Local 85’s hiring hall and apprentice program.

Because of the positive experience with Local 85, the company also became signatory to the UA locals in the area and is in conversations with Lance Fout, business manager of Local 435 in North Florida, about expanding operations into the Jacksonville market.

Kingspan workers in Santa Ana, Calif. are standing up for good jobs, safe workplaces and healthy communities. In October of 2021 they took their campaign public by presenting to their managers a majority petition demanding a fair process to decide whether to unionize. They also filed whistleblower complaints on health and safety violations, indoor air pollution and violations of the factory’s industrial pollution permit. Since then, Kingspan was cited by Cal-OSHA with 22 violations, including five serious ones, with current penalties at $21,785. Workers have seen their workplace become safer and multiple pay raises since going public. Kingspan has over a dozen production facilities in the U.S. and Canada, but only three are currently signatory to SMART.

“We started this campaign first and foremost for worker safety. We’ve been without proper ventilation for some time,” said Israel Maldonado, Kingspan assembly worker.

“Here in Santa Ana, we continue to ask Kingspan to listen to our health and safety concerns for our own well-being, our families and our community.”

From Santa Ana, Calif. to Manchester, England, SMART members and allies are supporting this struggle. As of August 1, 2022, SMART members have shown up at over 100 actions in the U.S. and Canada at offices of Kingspan shareholders, trade shows and other events.

On June 14, 2022, our union organized a memorial altar for the 72 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in front of Capital Group Headquarters in Los Angeles, in solidarity with 18,000 marching for justice in London that day.

“Today, we as Kingspan workers stand united in solidarity with all those in London marching for justice for the 72 people who lost their lives in the horrific Grenfell Tower fire on this day five years ago,” said Micaias Pacheco, a welder at Kingspan. “Here in Santa Ana, we continue to ask Kingspan to listen to our health and safety concerns for our own well-being, our families and our community.” We were joined by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) and the Labor Network for Sustainability.

To learn more about Kingspan, the Grenfell Tower Fire, and the workers in Santa Ana, visit:

www.KingspanOnFire.org
www.cleanupkingspan.org

Follow the campaign on Twitter:

@CleanUpKingspan
@KingspanOnFire

And facebook:

www.facebook.com/cleanupkingspan

SMART SM Local 23 (Anchorage, Alaska) won a wall-to-wall election at Ketchikan Vigor Shipyard in June 2022, bringing workers at the third-largest employer in Ketchikan into our union. This is a huge triumph for the shipyard workers and Local 23, giving SMART and working families an enormous presence in the community.

In January 2022, Vigor Shipyards in Portland, Oregon, reached out to Local 16 (Portland, Ore.) Business Agent Shawn Eckelberry about the possibility of sending a few SMART members to Ketchikan to work at their nonunion shipyard, which was very busy at the time. Eckelberry, recognizing the opportunity for his members, talked to Business Manager Brian Noble about allowing this to happen.

Once the union workers arrived at the yard, it very quickly became apparent to both union and nonunion workers that both sides were skilled and took pride in their work. SMART members soon started talking to the unrepresented workers, asking why they were not union and what prevented them from joining a union in the past. Our members also described the benefits of being in Local 16 and how the nonunion workers could create a path toward enjoying similar advantages.

In early March, our members called Eckelberry to report their conversations with the Ketchikan workers, adding that the shipyard workers wanted to be represented by SMART Local 16. Eckelberry, noting that those workers belonged to the jurisdiction of Local 23, discussed the situation with Local 16 Business Manager Randy Golding; Golding, recognizing that a campaign this large would compel Local 23 to seek assistance from other locals in the SMART Northwest Regional Council (NWRC), ended up calling the president and vice president of the NWRC, Tim Carter and Lance Deyette, to discuss — along with Noble and Eckelberry — the possibility of organizing the Ketchikan shipyard.

NWRC President Carter and Vice President Deyette decided to move forward using the resources of Local 23, Local 16 and Seattle, Wash. Local 66. (Local 16 and Local 66 already have collective bargaining agreements with Vigor in their areas.) President Carter held a strategy meeting with the three regional managers affected and International Organizer Aaron Bailey, and a campaign plan was developed and implemented.

On Sunday, March 27, the first boots hit the ground in Ketchikan, with Eckelberry and Darrin Boyce from Local 16, Kal Rohde from Local 66 and Jens Schurig from Local 23 meeting with workers before their shifts, during breaks and lunch, and after shifts. The business agents and organizers also put together evening meetings for workers to ask questions without employer monitoring. Perhaps most importantly, SMART helped four workers start a voluntary organizing committee (VOC) – a vital part of the plan that gave ownership of the campaign to the workers. Those four workers voted to elect Danny VanNostrand the leader of their group.

NWRC President Tim Carter handbilled outside the shipyard.

After receiving more than 25 signed union cards in the first three days, SMART organizers knew they had to ramp up their efforts and maintain a constant presence in Ketchikan. In April, the NWRC held its spring meeting in Kennewick, Washington, where SMART General President Sellers, NWRC President Carter and the business managers from Local 16, Local 23 and Local 66 facilitated a strategy session on how to move forward with the campaign. That resulted in more than 15 people – including President Carter, three business managers and various business agents and organizers – rotating in and out of Ketchikan during April and May, passing out handbills and meeting with workers to answer their questions or concerns. The concerted effort paid off: In May, SMART filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which ended up being a mailed ballot vote. On June 29, the vote took place via Zoom, where Local 23 won by a 26 to 19 margin! The Certification of Representation arrived from the NLRB on July 8, 2022.

Since then, information requests have gone out and have been received, and an all-hands meeting was conducted at the end of July for workers to express their opinions and wishes for upcoming contract negotiations. Every SMART leader, organizer and member involved in this momentous campaign looks forward to the day when Local 23 will announce a new collective bargaining agreement in Ketchikan!

Following a successful organizing campaign against union-busting opposition, SMART Local 16 members at Vancouver, Washington-based 360 Sheet Metal are now on strike, protesting unfair labor practices and a refusal to come to the bargaining table by management. Workers have been striking since late July, with Local 16 filing charges that 360 Sheet Metal “retaliated against pro-union workers by giving them isolating work assignments, making unilateral changes without bargaining, surveilling workers, and firing at least one union supporter,” according to Northwest Labor Press.

As reported by Local 16 organizer Matt Haines in the summer issue of the SMART Members’ Journal, 360 Sheet Metal almost exclusively builds custom ductwork and pays workers just above the minimum wage – plus, the company is currently under investigation by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for repeat violations of state prevailing wage law. After a hard-fought battle to form a union, the workers won their National Labor Relations Board election in April 2022. Since then, however, the company has refused to offer workers a contract – and in mid-August, management grew even more hostile. From Northwest Labor Press:

“Strikers say … they were notified they’re eligible for COBRA health coverage on account of their ‘termination.’ If they were in fact terminated, that too would be a violation of federal law, which protects the right to strike and makes it unlawful to permanently replace workers when they’re on strike to protest unfair labor practices.”

Not only is 360 Sheet Metal violating labor law, the company is undermining workers’ rights to union representation, fair wages, dignity on the job and the ability to support their families. Despite these flagrant attacks, however, Local 16 members are refusing to back down, and the labor movement is standing with them. Every morning, striking SMART members have picketed 360 Sheet Metal from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with members of the Ironworkers, Cement Masons, Insulators, Drywall Finishers and Laborers walking the picket line in solidarity. Teamsters working at UPS have refused to cross the picket line, and C-TRAN bus drivers with ATU Local 757 have honked and displayed messages of strength and unity.

SMART condemns 360 Sheet Metal’s anti-union activity in the strongest possible terms, and we stand in complete, unwavering solidarity with Local 16 members on the picket line.

President Joe Biden on April 26 signed an executive order that created a Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment to increase union density and union organizing in the country.
The group will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris and DOL Secretary Marty Walsh and have more than 20 members of Biden’s Cabinet and heads of agencies involved, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
“American workers have faced increasing barriers to organizing and bargaining collectively with their employers. Economic change in the United States and globally, technological developments, and the failure to modernize federal organizing and labor-management relations laws so they respond appropriately to the reality found in American workplaces have made worker organizing exceedingly difficult. The result has been a steady decline in union membership in the United States over past decades,” a White House fact sheet on the creation of the task force stated. “Since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, the policy of the federal government has been to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, not to merely allow or tolerate them. In the 86 years since the Act was passed, the federal government has never fully implemented this policy.”
The task force intends to, within 180 days, recommend ways that current policies, programs and practices can be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government and identify where new policies, regulatory and statutory changes are needed to achieve the task force’s mission.
The goals set forth for the task force are:

  1. Lead by example by ensuring that the federal government is a model employer with respect to encouraging worker organizing and collective bargaining among its workforce.
  2. Facilitate worker organizing across the country by taking an all-of-government approach to mobilize the federal government’s policies, programs and practices to provide workers the opportunity to organize and bargain collectively.
  3. Increase worker power in underserved communities by examining and seeking to address the particular challenges to worker organizing in jurisdictions with restrictive labor laws; the added challenges that marginalized workers in many communities encounter, including women and people of color; and the heightened barriers to organizing workers in certain industries.
  4. Increase union membership across the United States to grow a more inclusive middle class and provide workers the opportunity to come together for the purpose of mutual advancement, the dignity of worker and workers, respect and the fair compensation they deserve.

Read an article on the task force by Business Insider.
Read a fact sheet on the task force.

After four-plus years of arduous contract negotiations and mediation, SMART TD train and engine service members operating at Birmingham Terminal Railway (BHRR) have ratified their first generation collective bargaining agreement that governs wages and working conditions on that property through calendar year 2019; 96 percent of the voting membership was in favor of the agreement.
SMART TD Vice President John E. Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, commended General Chairperson Mark Cook and his negotiating team (consisting of Assistant Chairperson Thomas Gholson, William “Eddie” Carroll, Derek Brown and Bobby McFadden) for their “persistent and systematic attentiveness to the needs of our membership.”
Cook expressed his gratitude to Lesniewski for “bringing a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to the bargaining table.” Lesniewski, Cook and the entire negotiating team praised the members of Local 1887 for their patience and loyalty throughout the extensive negotiating process.
Birmingham Terminal Railway is a subsidiary of Watco Companies, an operator of several short-line railroad companies. The BHRR operates on 75.9 miles (122.1 km) of track providing switching services in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It began operating in 2012 after acquiring the assets of the Birmingham Southern Railroad.

Train and engine service employees as well as yardmaster employees of Golden Isles Terminal Railroad recently voted yes to SMART TD representation.
On May 12, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified that SMART TD has been duly designated and authorized to represent train and engine service as well as yardmaster employees of the railroad.
“These employees recognize what the strength and power that being part of the nation’s largest rail labor organization can do for them,” said SMART TD Director of Organizing rich Ross.
“We would like to thank all those involved with the successful campaign on Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, specifically Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, GO 851 General Chairperson Joe Bennett and local officers of Local 1031, Local President James Robertroy, Local Legislative Rep. Isaac Gamble, Local Chairperson Darrin Brown and Local Chairperson Jeremy Sessions,” said Ross and Transportation Organizer Larry Grutzius.
Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates 33 miles of track in and around the port at Brunswick, Ga. The railroad has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Commodities carried by the short line are automobiles, chemicals, food and feed products, machinery, and pulp and paper. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad was founded in 1998 by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.

Central Maine and Quebec railway SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross reports that non-operating employees of Central Maine & Quebec Railway (CMQ) located in Hermon, Maine, have voted in overwhelming favor of representation by the SMART Transportation Division.

The National Mediation Board certified the election results October 28, 2015. “I would like to thank SMART TD Organizer Larry Grutzius (Local 1895 – Chicago) for all of his hard work in this campaign,” Ross said.

 CMQ is a Class III freight railroad responsible for car repair, car storage and switching services in the states of Maine and Vermont. The non-operating employees build and repair track and track infrastructure, repair and inspect freight cars and locomotives. CMQ operates 220 miles of track in Maine and 23 miles in Vermont. The railway is owned by Railroad Acquisition Holdings, LLC.

Train and engine service employees of Alliance Terminal Railroad located in Haslet, Texas, have voted for representation by the SMART Transportation Division, Director of Organizing Rich Ross reports.

Of 23 eligible voters, 14 voted for SMART while two cast ballots for no union.

The National Mediation Board certified the election results Dec. 30.

ATR is a Class III terminal railroad responsible for the switching and operations at the Alliance Intermodal Facility. It is owned by OmniTRAX, a North American private railroad and transportation management company with interests in railroads, terminals, ports and industrial real estate.

ATR connects with BNSF Railway at Haslet and operates over seven miles of BNSF track through incidental trackage rights, according to the company’s website.

Employees of Bay Line Railroad based in Panama City, Fla., voted July 2 for representation by the SMART Transportation Division, Organizer Rich Ross reports.

Of 17 eligible voters, 10 voted for SMART while three voted for no union.

“I thank CSX and Norfolk Southern new-hire class instructor Justin Humphries and Local 1291 Chairperson Jacob Lane for all of their hard work in this campaign,” Ross said. “I also want to recognize the efforts of Cara McGinty at the Transportation Division Headquarters in North Olmsted, Ohio. She truly put a lot of time and energy in bringing this organizing drive to a successful conclusion.”

Bay Line Railroad is a 103-mile short line freight railroad that interchanges with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern. Commodities transported by the carrier include aggregates, brick and cement, chemicals, coal, food and feed products, forest products, metallic ores and minerals, and steel and scrap. It was acquired by Genesee & Wyoming in 2005.