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:

  1. Organizing under the National Labor Relations Act in both construction and production settings;
  2. Basic “street law” rules for in-field activity;
  3. Initiating and perpetuating value-based representation communications with nonunion workers;
  4. Initiating and perpetuating value-based, top-down conversations with employers;
  5. 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.

Listen to episode 20 of Talking SMART – as well as all previous episodes – here.

SMART Army members across the United States held their annual event in honor of fallen service members by joining thousands across the country to lay wreaths at the final resting place of service members at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at over 2,500 sites across the country. The event, through Wreaths Across America, pursues the objective of remembering the fallen, honoring their sacrifices and teaching future generations of Americans about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom.

On Saturday, May 14, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will hold its traditional Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive – its 30th and the first in-person since 2019 (due to the pandemic, NALC conducted online donor drives the last two years). Participation is simple: On May 14, pitch in by leaving a bag of nonperishable food items near your mailbox before mail collection. Your NALC labor movement sibling will handle the rest, making sure your donation is delivered to local food banks in need.

As NALC President Fredric Rolando explains in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive announcement video: “Much of life paused or changed during the pandemic, but one thing that remained was the growing need for food assistance across the nation. Today, over 45 million Americans, including 15 million children, experience food insecurity, and they rely on food donations.”

“Together,” he adds, “we can stamp out hunger in America.”

Learn more at

The SMART Army was out in full force in Dearborn Heights Michigan the week of November 1st, 2021.  Upon hearing of a need by some very worthy recipients, SMART Local 80 Detroit apprentices answered that call.

Jaime Wencel, a young unwed mother, died shortly after giving birth to her fifth child.  Amid those terrible circumstances, Jaime’s parents, Debbie and Tom Wencel, stepped in to raise her 5 children, Cara (13), Paige (10), Jenna (8), Cayden (6) and Nina (4).

Debbie and Tom, who is a retired Local 1401 Drywall Finisher, have spent much of their lives volunteering and giving back to their community.  Tom is a member of the Dearborn Heights City Council, and his daughter Jaime worked many hours for his campaign to help him get elected.  They live in a modest two bedroom home, and suddenly had a need to add on a second floor addition to provide Jaime’s children with the adequate space to grow.

Many local companies and individuals have stepped up to help the Wencel Family and the Charity now  simply known as “Jaime’s Kids”.  Building materials and labor have been donated from multiple local supply houses and contractors as well as over 100 volunteers that have donated their time and talents to starting the second floor addition project.

It was brought to the attention of the SMART Local 80’s Apprenticeship Training director, Matt ORourk, that there was a need to have the metal panel roof installed over the porches on both the front and the side of the house.  The material had been donated and was on-site, but the estimates for installation by a local contractor was steep. SMART Local 80 generously donated their time and skill to get the job done.  Led by Local 80 Training Center Instructor Sam Velez, a crew of apprentices showed up to volunteer to install the panels.

List of SMART members who attended:

Richard Davidson, Drake Wonifeil, Dan Hines, Jacob Ciner, Alex Bastien, Michael Lopez, Quinn Gattori, Travis Harper, Alan Dickson, Hunter Brotherton, Daniel Bleyaert, Joshua Gibbons, Sam Velez (Instructor), Bob Wenzell (Organizer 292), David Hartsuck (Organizer 80)

Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs reports that H.B. 440, the two-person freight crew bill that has passed the state House, is scheduled for a hearing Monday, February 17, at the state Capitol.
“We’re asking all of our Virginia members and their families to spend the day to get the word out,” Hobbs said. “Now is the time for us to show our state senators the importance of this public safety matter.”
The bill passed the House of Delegates by a 61-37 vote in January and there was a great show of support by SMART members and retirees. Hobbs would like to see that duplicated Monday.
Contact Hobbs at for more details on how to show your support in the fight to keep two on the crew.