Kentucky’s Blue Oval SK (BOSK) Battery Plant will be union-built and require the services of hundreds of SMART sheet metal workers.

In recent months, accompanying a rise in union organizing and the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, we have seen what could be the return of American manufacturing. In January 2022, Intel announced plans to build a $20 million chip hub in Ohio, while Ford recently insisted that its new electric vehicle factory in Stanton, Tenn., be entirely union-built. And that’s just the beginning of the good news for SMART sheet metal workers: To complement its EV factory, Ford will also build several new buildings in Glendale, Ky., entirely union, expanding its battery manufacturing capabilities and providing hundreds of jobs for SMART members during construction (as well as the possibility of future ongoing work).

“This is an opportunity to really build up our apprenticeship program and increase our membership.”

“This is by far the biggest project to come through Kentucky,” said SM Local 110 (Louisville, Ky.) Organizer Jeremy Waugh. “The new facilities will add over 7,000,000 total square feet of new battery manufacturing facilities and impact approximately 1,400 acres of the existing greenfield site. The scope is inclusive of, but not limited to, construction of the following project components: two new 43 gigawatt battery plants, along with their proposed ancillary facilities, as well as administration, canteens and testing facilities.”

He added that the two new mile-long battery plants will mirror one another. Ford will likely construct one of the buildings first, rather than both simultaneously, to start manufacturing more batteries right away — allowing workers to seamlessly transition from the first BOSK jobsite to the second one. That means more work hours for Local 110 members, new members and SMART journeypersons.

“This is an opportunity to really build up our apprenticeship program and increase our membership,” Waugh pointed out.

While the project has been delayed by three months, Ford will likely try to make up that time during site work — meaning SMART members could arrive at the jobsite as soon as January, with work expected to reach a consistent peak in spring or summer 2023. That means the time is now for Local 110 to ramp up recruiting and organizing efforts (and, given the amount of work on the horizon for sheet metal workers across the country due to federal infrastructure legislation, the same goes for SMART locals everywhere). Waugh explained that Local 110 plans to deploy a variety of marketing and recruiting tactics, both evergreen and specific to the BOSK project, to grow its membership, including a billboard near the jobsite, trade shows in the area and print brochures to pass out at jobsites or career fairs, and a new digital database that replicates job listings at the union hall.

“We’re open to ideas from anyone in SMART who might have some out-of-the-box recruiting ideas that they may not be able to try at their local,” he added. “We’re leaving no stone unturned, no idea will go unconsidered.”

Like Ford’s Tennessee project, BOSK is a union project in a so-called “right-to-work” state. That’s significant not only due to its potential impact on union organizing and density during construction, but also as an ongoing opportunity for local SMART members. For companies that engage in large, complex projects, Waugh said, it’s hard to return to the nonunion shop after experiencing the skill and expertise of organized labor.</p> <p>

“The initial need is huge, but we’re looking at the long game” he said. “We have to be successful in the beginning to reap the rewards after.”

Local 49 Business Manager Isaiah Zemke (right) with President Biden.

SM Local 49 (Albuquerque, N.M.) Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer Isaiah Zemke took part in a “Communities in Action: Building a Better New Mexico” meeting at the White House on October 7, 2022. The discussion, part of the Biden administration’s “Building a Better America” series, included an overview with leaders from Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, followed by state-specific sessions.

“They had leaders from each state join – from unions, nonprofits, tribal governments and elected politicians – for a group briefing, followed by individual state roundtables to share stories and discuss amplifying them across our communities and states,” Zemke said, noting that he conducted a survey of Local 49 members prior to the meeting in order to convey members’ thoughts to the administration. “I discussed indoor air quality and how we are partnering with school boards, the state of New Mexico and municipalities [to perform that work.]”

In the group meeting, Zemke and other attendees met with Julie Chavez Rodriguez, senior advisor to President Biden; Steve Rochetti, legislative coordinator; Al Zaidi, White House national climate advisor; Jewel Bronaugh, deputy secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture; Susan Rice, director of domestic policy; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Along with conveying members’ messages to the administration, Zemke participated in a discussion on how recent legislation will impact working families in the region.

“It sounds like the plan is to have all 50 states choose leaders to attend similar action plans,” Zemke added.

In the New Mexico roundtable, Zemke brought up the amount of work that Indoor Air Quality policies and legislation like the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will create for SM Local 49 members, including an Intel plant in Rio Rancho, N.M. He also pointed out the need for high schools to receive funding for CTE programs, ensuring that SMART and other building trades have the workforce pipeline that will be needed to complete the infrastructure work of the future.

Ultimately, the discussion once again proved SMART’s new level of access with the current administration – and the importance of taking advantage in order to strengthen our union.

SMART published the first episode of SMART News – a new video/web show focused on issues of importance to SMART members and working families across North America – on September 27, 2022, responding to feedback from SMART workers on the information from their union that they find relevant.

“SMART News will focus on issues that matter to you, your job and your family,” said Paul Pimentel of SMART Communications during the first episode. “This is your news, your union, delivering information that matters to you.”

SMART News is intended to fill an information void for SMART members and other workers in North America by specifically addressing events and developments that impact their lives and their communities – in other words, news that often goes uncovered. The first episode features an update from SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson on freight rail contract negotiations; information on new megaprojects and indoor air quality work for sheet metal workers; a discussion on progress made for SMART members with General President Joseph Sellers; an overview on the FRA’s proposed two-person crew regulation from TD Alt. National Legislative Director Jared Cassity; and much more.

Watch the full episode above, or find specific links to segments of the show below. To watch an extended interview with TD President Ferguson, text RRContract to 667336.

Jump to a segment in this episode:

Today the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule to rescind the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP), and will instead direct the department’s resources toward registered apprenticeships. The DOL issued this final rule after reviewing the IRAP as required by Executive Order 14016, in which President Biden directed federal agencies to consider rescinding “any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies” implemented by the previous president’s Executive Order 13801, which promoted IRAPs.

SMART issued the following statement in response:

“We commend the Department of Labor for following through on President Biden’s executive order and recognizing the IRAP initiative for what it was: a bad faith attempt by anti-union contractors and politicians to undermine high-quality union apprenticeship programs and replace them with a watered-down system of certifications. Our registered apprenticeships offer expert training, stellar worker protections and better pay and benefits for workers across the country – no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, creed or place of origin. By rescinding IRAPs and investing instead in registered apprenticeship programs, the Department of Labor has ruled in favor of workers and their ability to find good, union jobs and reliable pathways to the middle class.”   

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 26, 2022 and will go into effect on November 25, 2022. Beginning on the effective date, DOL will no longer recognize Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) or IRAPs.

Today, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, officially codifying this groundbreaking piece of legislation into law. In response, SMART issued the following statement.

“By signing the Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden has once again acted on his campaign promise to be a president for working Americans. Once implemented, the Inflation Reduction Act will help alleviate rising prices for working families by cutting the cost of healthcare, lowering utility bills and making massive investments in green energy and American manufacturing – all with strong labor standards that will help create good, union jobs. Unlike the past administration, this legislation will see absolutely no tax increases for small businesses and families that makes less than $400,000 a year – instead, corporations will finally be held accountable and pay their fair share. And most importantly for our members, SMART workers will be called upon to take on the green energy jobs that this bill creates. We commend President Biden for signing this bill, and we look forward to meeting its demands.”

Today, the Biden Administration released a fact sheet intended to help schools, educators, families and children safely prepare to return to school this fall. As part of its efforts to help local education administrators ensure schools are ready to reopen, the White House noted its collaboration with SMART, SMACNA and NEMI – as experts in indoor air quality, HVAC, ventilation and energy efficiency – and linked to SMART’s “Better Air in Buildings” web page. In response, SMART issued the following statement:

“We welcome the Biden Administration’s continued willingness to collaborate with organized labor, and we commend the White House’s Back to School 2022 fact sheet: intended to give every school the tools to prevent COVID-19 spread and stay safely open throughout the year. SMART appreciates the White House’s partnership as we work to keep teachers, students and families safe through the upcoming school year, and our members across the country are ready, willing and able to perform the work needed to keep schools open safely. Find more information from SMART and from NEMI.”

Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Inflation Reduction Act, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. In response, SMART issued the following statement.

“SMART applauds the work of the United States House and Senate for pushing this vital piece of legislation across the line for working families across our country. The Inflation Reduction Act will combat rising prices, cut the cost of healthcare for working Americans and invest billions of dollars into clean energy facilities and making homes and commercial buildings energy efficient. Importantly, the strong labor standards attached to the tax credits for production, energy efficiency and investment will help create good, union jobs – and SMART members are the workers with the skills and expertise to take on those jobs, from retrofitting schools to building green energy facilities. Our members are ready to meet the demands of this bill and will play a crucial role in solving the climate crisis.”

Today, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, codifying legislation that will strengthen America’s ability to build, expand and modernize semiconductor facilities. In response, SMART released the following statement.  

“We commend President Biden for taking swift action and signing the CHIPS and Science Act into law. Not only will the CHIPS and Science Act invest billions of dollars into the semiconductor industry – expanding our national capacity to develop chips and incentivizing companies to increase production – it will mandate that manufacturing to happen in America, and it will support good-paying, union construction jobs by requiring Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rates for facilities built with CHIPS funding. Companies are already responding to the passage of this legislation by making historic investments in American semiconductor manufacturing. SMART members are uniquely qualified to take on this work, and we look forward to taking on that responsibility.”  

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.

Do you have dreams of starting your own service business? Or do you have an existing sheet metal business that you’d like to add a service department to? If so, the International Training Institute (ITI) Service Academy is for you.

The ITI launched its new Service Academy in April, aimed at supporting union sheet metal workers who want to become service contractors signatory to SMART, as well as existing signatory contractors looking to add a service arm to their business. The academy features a series of courses designed to teach SMART members the fundamentals of business ownership and help them decide whether or not to start a business.

Beginning with the ITI Business Development course, participants are introduced to the tools they need to plan for successful business ownership, including choosing a business name, hiring and retaining the right people, bidding accurately, keeping track of cash flow and more. The Business Development course also gives participants a jump-start on writing a comprehensive business plan and examines strategies for marketing and financing a new business in today’s construction and service markets.

Once they have completed Business Development, participants can choose from various courses in the Service Academy’s pathway, addressing the needs of members at all stages in their careers.

For example, the Basic Service Technician Training course is designed for those who have gained knowledge and insight into the Business Development and Service Manager courses but need more hands-on experience working with the tools of the trade. Another course, the Service Specialty Manager Training, is for those who want to open a dedicated service department at an existing signatory contractor. Participants learn the ins and outs of dispatch, cost of overhead, maintenance contracts, marketing and more.

The Service Academy provides the most robust and well-rounded approach to the service side of the industry and includes more than just HVACR. With multiple course selections available, the academy is centered on participants’ needs and will address a broader perspective of service-based scopes of work, including – but not limited to – HVAC Fire Life Safety, TAB, BIM and Ventilation Verification for Indoor Air Quality. Most of the courses are offered either entirely online or in a hybrid learning environment, and independent study expectations are kept manageable for participants who are still working full time in the field.

Visit the Service Academy website to learn more!