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Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the CHIPS and Science Act, sending the bill – which includes $39 billion to build, expand and modernize semiconductor facilities in the U.S. – to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. In response, SMART issued the following statement:
“We applaud both the United States House and the Senate for investing in the future of our country. The billions of dollars that the CHIPS and Science Act will direct to the semiconductor industry will expand our national capacity to develop chips and incentivize companies to increase production – and most importantly, it will require that manufacturing to be made in America. We also welcome the provisions in the bill that will put union members to work building new manufacturing plants, helping facilitate the growth of a skilled American workforce. The passage of this legislation will bring the expertise of union tradespeople into high demand; tens of thousands of SMART members across this country are ready to answer the call.”
Today, U.S. Representatives Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) led 101 of their colleagues in introducing legislation intended to punish corporate union busting and make it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain. Essentially, the bill would take American taxpayer subsidies away from any corporate activity intended to discourage workers from exercising their legally protected right to form a union.
“Our union has a long history of helping workers form a union, and we know all too well the lengths corporations will go to try to prevent workers from having a voice at work,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “It’s time to end the ability of corporations to deduct union busting activity from taxes — a practice that allows corporations to get off scot-free with union-busting activity. We greatly appreciate Congressman Norcross, Congresswoman Chu and their colleagues for their leadership on this legislation and stand ready to advocate with them for its passage.”
According to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, it is the official policy of the United States government to encourage collective bargaining and protect workers’ freedom of association. In practice, however, corporations often engage in anti-union activity without punishment. As workers around the country continue to organize their workplaces at historic levels, employers are spending an estimated $340 million per year on union-busting campaigns. These expenses are currently tax deductible – and frequently written off as business expenses. (Even though, because of former President Trump’s 2017 tax package, workers are not even able to deduct their union dues or the cost of work tools from their taxes, as they had been able to do in the past.)
Common anti-worker interventions – currently tax deductible – include “captive audience meetings,” where employers hold mandatory meetings during work hours and spread misinformation intended to discourage unionization; hiring expensive “union avoidance” firms to lead union-busting campaigns; threatening to withhold benefits from pro-union workers; firing pro-union workers; and closing workplaces that appear to be pro-union or that have voted to unionize.
Rep. Norcross and Rep. Chu’s No Tax Break for Union Busting Act would curtail all such practices, ending taxpayer payment for anti-union corporate practice by classifying corporate interference in union campaigns as political speech under the tax code – thereby revoking its tax deductibility. Additionally, the legislation would require corporations to report anti-worker interventions to the IRS, ensuring these corporations pay their fair share of taxes and do not receive undeserved tax deductions.
“American taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for corporations engaged in anti-worker activity,” Congressman Norcross said. “We need to level the playing field for workers and end handouts for union-busting campaigns. It’s not fair that workers pay taxes on their hard-earned paychecks while their bosses save money crushing worker organizing. Why does our tax code favor employers at the expense of the American worker? It’s time to bring fairness to the tax code and end tax breaks for union busting.”
“The right to organize is not just protected by law, it is the official policy of the U.S. government to encourage workers to exercise this right,” added Congresswoman Chu. “However, our tax code provides companies lucrative tax breaks for the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend yearly to upend pro-union action and organizing. The No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Actwould not only end taxpayer subsidies for these anti-union efforts, but would give workers the fair shot they deserve to form a union.”
On June 9, 2022, 3M Fall Protection announced a stop use/recall of specific 3M™ DBI-SALA® ShockWave™2 Arc Flash Shock Absorbing Lanyards. 3M determined that, for a limited number of devices, a potential manufacturing issue could result in the lanyard not performing properly in the event of a fall, which could result in severe injury or death. There have been no reports of injuries, accidents or complaints associated with this issue.
At this time, users/owners of affected lanyards can choose to receive either a free new replacement unit (when available) or a cash option. Visit the recall website to read the detailed recall notice, view a list of affected part numbers and file a claim for any affected lanyards you own.
In the last several years, an increase in HVAC, construction, ventilation verification and other work has led to a growth in continent-wide demand for the skills and expertise provided by SMART members. As the need for sheet metal workers has intensified, so too has the drive to recruit more women into the trade, and the 21st-century workforce looks more diverse than ever before. With this opportunity comes a similar sense of responsibility: the greater and more diverse our union and industry grow, the harder we must work to safeguard the well-being of every member of our union.
Health and safety concerns in construction and the trades affect both women and men, but some problems can have a greater impact on women. Interviews and focus groups of women construction workers conducted by Chicago Women in Trades and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified several recurring issues. As in other male-dominated fields, women in construction have reported facing a hostile workplace, sexual harassment, isolation and job insecurity. These stresses can add to the pressure already created by tight deadlines and complicated work.
Physical challenges and job site dynamics unique to women add to this disparity. Women are between two and five times more likely than men to experience upper body sprains and strains at work. Excessive lifting and repetitive motions are all known risk factors for back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, regardless of gender — and it’s important to remember that many things on a job site, from tools to protective equipment to portable toilets, have historically been designed for men’s bodies.
As we step into a bright future, it’s up to all of us, men and women, to help one another survive and thrive in the sheet metal industry. Among other things, that means:
Making sure all workers have access to tools and personal protective equipment at a jobsite, including respirators, fall protection harnesses, gloves and safety goggles that fit properly and comfortably.
Providing portable bathroom facilities on job sites that are safe and hygienic for any worker to use.
For guidance on navigating stress and work culture as a woman in the sheet metal industry, view the SMART Sister Tips from women working in locals all over the country, a series that kicked off Women in Construction Week earlier this spring.
As always, the SMOHIT Helpline, 877-884-6227, is available 24/7, with a trained counselor ready to take your call if you are experiencing a crisis.
In this Memorial Day video message from SMART General President Sellers, we remember those Americans who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and democracy, along with Canadian heroes who are recognized each year on July 1. May God bless their memories, their families who share the burdens of their sacrifices and every active and veteran member of our armed services.
Victoria Day is a day that we not only spend with our loved ones, but also honour the birthday of Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation.
While last year’s celebrations were muted due to the pandemic, things have changed considerably, and we are now approaching a new sense of normalcy.
It is also a time to reflect on our achievements, such as the Skilled Trades Workforce Mobility Tax deduction. We still have much work to do to further the progress we have made. But on this special day, let’s celebrate by safely spending some well-deserved time with our friends and loved ones.
During the first week of May, the SMART Department of Education held an in-person basic organizing training session in Portland, Oregon — part of the vital work the department performs in order to keep our union strong and geared towards growth.
Participants from across the region immersed themselves in study and conducted role play exercises to prepare for circumstantial and situational topics that are important for building a basic organizing foundation for local unions.
Topics included, but were not limited to:
Organizing under the National Labor Relations Act in both construction and production settings;
Basic “street law” rules for in-field activity;
Initiating and perpetuating value-based representation communications with nonunion workers;
Initiating and perpetuating value-based, top-down conversations with employers;
Investigating and outlining basic organizing strategies; and more.
Participants were also given a presentation on the SMART indoor air quality (IAQ) initiative. Instructors broke down the complexities of the initiative’s sequences, answered questions and discussed with participants how the IAQ initiative could be utilized as a tool for organizing, growing market share and increasing density within their local unions.
In addition to in-person sessions, participants had the opportunity to engage in the training via remote conferencing with both SMART Director of Organizing Darrell Roberts and SMART Director of National Campaigns James White, both of whom gave presentations about their departments and answered questions.
On Friday, May 6, 105 members of SMART Local 565 working at Trachte Building Systems in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin voted to strike – taking a collective stand for their rights to a fair contract that gives them well-earned time to spend with their families and loved ones.
“There’s been lots of a mandatory overtime put on the workers through the pandemic, [and] the company is looking for additional mandatory overtime language [in the next contract],” Local 565 Business Manager Jesse Buell said in an interview with Labor Radio in Madison. “The people just want more family time.”
Sheet metal workers at Trachte perform essential labor that has proved especially vital in recent years, producing training centers for fire fighters and first responders, as well as storage units that are used across the country. Unfortunately, Buell explained to Labor Radio, the hard work of the members has not been rewarded by management. Instead, Trachte has maneuvered to keep Local 565 members working as much as possible – at the expense of time spent with their kids, families and neighbors.
“There was a moment where Trachte worked these guys for seven days a week for about nine weeks in a row very strategically, where they didn’t mandate the same person for the 15 days, but they would go back and forth from machines,” he said.
Following what Buell called a “strong” strike vote, Local 565 members have taken to the street – despite attempted union-busting from Trachte, including a letter encouraging workers to quit the union. According to Buell, the company’s hostile tactics have only strengthened the resolve of the workers.
“It’s actually motivated the members to stick together, and it’s really gained solidarity over there,” he said.
That solidarity has extended to the rest of the Wisconsin labor movement. On Monday, May 9, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO released a statement in support of striking SMART members.
“The Wisconsin labor movement proudly stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of SMART Local 565 on strike at Trachte Building Systems in Sun Prairie,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. “We send solidarity and strength to SMART members as they hold the line for a fair and just contract that allows workers to spend time with their family.”
SMART commends the bravery of our Local 565 brothers and sisters on strike in Wisconsin, and every member of our union stands with them in unwavering solidarity as they continue to fight for their rights.
Over the next two episodes of Talking SMART – the official podcast of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers – hosts Paul Pimentel and Ben Nagy talk with SMART members who have successfully run for local or state public office, discussing their sheet metal and transportation careers, what motivated them to run for elected office, specific steps they took to build and run successful campaigns and key issues they focused on once in office.
The featured guest for episode 20: Joe de la Cruz, a 25-year sheet metal worker with SMART Local 40 and vice president of Hillery Company, a signatory metal fabricator located in Groton, Conn. Episode 20 is out now; look for episode 21 in the near future.
Since 2016, Brother de la Cruz has served as a state representative, proudly serving the communities of Groton and New London in the Connecticut General Assembly. But his career as an elected official started at a much more local level, when he ran for and won a seat on Groton’s Town Council and Representative Town Meeting years earlier.
“What I think inspires people to get involved is when they start actually participating, and you don’t have to be elected to do that,” de la Cruz told Talking SMART. “All the meetings are open – just go to your council meeting. And when you hear how other people think and how vastly different it is sometimes from your opinion, that’s when the fire can get lit.”
“I know [running for office is] hard and I know it’s tough to do because we’re sheet metal workers, and when we go home we’re dirty and tired, but if you want to have things go your way – and it doesn’t really matter what the issue is – you have to be sitting at the table.”
– Joe de la Cruz, Local 40 member and Conn. state rep
Throughout the podcast discussion, Brother de la Cruz underscored the importance of being engaged and involved with your local community if you want to have a say in what happens, whether it’s with local sports leagues – which is what initially inspired de la Cruz to run for office – or on multi-million-dollar decisions about Project Labor Agreements or transportation funding. If members aren’t involved, he warned, there’s a strong possibility that the elected officials making decisions with enormous ramifications for SMART members will be people who have no idea what blue-collar life is like for working families.
“I know [running for office is] hard and I know it’s tough to do because we’re sheet metal workers, and when we go home we’re dirty and tired, but if you want to have things go your way – and it doesn’t really matter what the issue is – you have to be sitting at the table,” he explained.
In 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, de la Cruz also kickstarted a national campaign to bring metal nose strips to thousands of volunteer face mask makers across the United States and Canada, at a time when masks were in critically short supply. Starting at Local 40, the effort quickly spread to SMART locals across North America, eventually resulting in over 17 million nose strips being produced and shipped to more than 27,000 people who requested them. For his leadership on this effort, Joe was honored in 2022 with the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award.
To help get through the cold winter, low-income homeowners in Chicago and Chicago Heights received free furnace and boiler tune-ups to keep them safe and warm. This initiative was the result of a partnership between Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago, SM Local 73 and SMACNA Greater Chicago.
When the risks associated with COVID-19 limited Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago’s ability to perform interior home repair, the organization met the challenge by broadening the services it provides to families and elderly homeowners. As part of this transition, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago led an outreach effort with the intent of assessing its clients’ unique needs, while providing valuable referrals and connections to other resources in the community. From ensuring food security to providing PPE, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago has responded to the crisis by providing a safer, more secure home environment for area residents.
In December 2020, a partnership with Local 73 and SMACNA Greater Chicago provided warmer, safer home environments for low-income families in preparation for winter. This initiative, called Warm the Metro, enlists union members and local HVAC contractors to visit more than 50 homes annually, offering free tune-up services on boilers and furnaces. This year, the Warm the Metro partnership provided tune-ups in 64 homes, plus full replacements in five.
“Furnace and boiler tune-ups are exactly the type of support our homeowners need to stay safe and warm through the winter. We are delighted to continue this partnership for a second year, and so grateful to our SMACNA and Local 73 friends,” said Wanda Ramirez, CEO of Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago.
In addition to providing improved heating efficiency, safety and indoor comfort, a regular furnace tune-up can spell the difference between a five- to 10-year and a 15- to 20-year life expectancy for a heating system. To complete the tune-ups, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago partnered with South Suburban Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., and RD’s HVAC, Inc. for the Warm the Metro initiative.
“The men and women of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 73 have a long history of giving back to our community,” said Local 73 President and Business Manager Raymond Suggs. “We are proud to work with Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago to Warm the Metro in preparation for winter. The danger posed by COVID-19 makes it more important than ever to have a safe, warm, comfortable home to protect residents’ health and safety this winter. We look forward to future partnerships with Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago and continuing to provide and give back our services to those in need.”