TALKING SMART

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Ep. 21: “You’re either at the table, or you’re on the menu”

A conversation with two SMART members who serve their communities in local elected positions about the importance of having regular working people in office. 

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Matt Cherry

Last episode, we heard from Joe de la Cruz, a SMART sheet metal worker in Groton, Conn., who is also a state senator, proudly serving the communities of Groton and New London. This episode we sit down with two more SMART members who have successfully run for elected office. We discuss 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.

Our first guest this episode is Matt Cherry, a Local 33 sheet metal member from Toledo, Ohio, who serves as the president of the Toledo City Council. Among other topics, he discussed the importance of support he had from the local labor community, including more than 50 union members who helped with door-knocking during his successful campaign for city council.

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Dan O'Connell

Our second guest is Dan O’Connell, a long-time member of the SMART Transportation Division who served as New Jersey State Legislative Director for 20 years, until his retirement in 2018. He also served as the Delran Councilman and Burlington County freeholder. Dan has been a recognizable face across every part of our union as his formidable reputation in the New Jersey State House preceded him prior to his retirement.

Voting, lobbying and writing politicians are one thing, but actually being in an elected position and making decisions that affect our jobs, families and communities is also key. Dan underscored the importance of having regular working people in elected positions: "You're either at the table, or you’re on the menu.”

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question about whether railroad workers are allowed to strike.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 20: SMART Member Brings Voice of Working Families to CT Statehouse

A conversation with 25-year sheet metal worker and Connecticut State Rep. Joe de la Cruz

Over the next two episodes, we sit down with SMART members who have successfully run for local or statewide public office. We discuss 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.

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Joe de la Cruz

Our featured guest this episode is Joe de la Cruz, a 25-year sheet metal worker with SMART and vice president of Hillery Company, a signatory metal fabricator located in Groton, Conn. Brother de la Cruz is also a state representative, proudly serving the communities of Groton and New London. He was elected in 2016 to his first term in the General Assembly, after serving on Groton's Town Council and Representative Town Meeting.

In 2020, Joe also kickstarted a national campaign to bring metal nose strips to thousands of volunteer 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 2021 with the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award.

Throughout our 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, or on multi-million dollar decisions about Project Labor Agreements.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question about what steps SMART members should take if they decide to run for office.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 19: Conversation with SMART TD President Jeremy Ferguson

BNSF "Hi-Viz" Attendance Policy and National Rail Contract Negotiations Were Focus of Discussion

In this episode of Talking SMART, we sit down with SMART TD President Jeremy Ferguson to talk about a subject that is foremost on the minds of many members. In February 2022, BNSF arbitrarily changed its attendance policy and took advantage of a pro-management judge to force (as of now... this episode was recorded in early March), a draconian “Hi-Viz” attendance policy upon the very members who have kept the company operational through the pandemic – and who earned BNSF record profits in 2021. President Ferguson also provides an update on contract negotiations with the national rail carriers.  

Jeremy Ferguson 
Jeremy Ferguson

Brother Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., started railroading in 1994 after serving in the United States Army and attending college, beginning as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, before earning a promotion to engineer in 1995. Ferguson was elected local legislative representative in 1995; local chairperson in 1996; and secretary of the CSX/B&O General Committee, GO 049 in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2007. He was elected second vice general chairperson in 2008 and first vice general chairperson in 2011. At the first SMART Transportation Division Convention in 2014, Ferguson was elected to the position of vice president, and at the second convention in August 2019, he became president of the SMART Transportation Division.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a member question about what labor and management are doing to work together in the sheet metal trade and outlines the stakes for the unionized industry.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 18: The 1st Year of the Biden-Harris Administration

Back in April 2021, we met with Steve Dodd and Greg Hynes to talk about the first 100 days of the Biden administration. We have brought them back for this Talking SMART episode to talk about the first year of the administration and, more specifically, its impact on SMART members. 

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Steve Dodd

Brother Dodd is SMART’s Director of Governmental Affairs and a member of Local 137 in New York City. He spoke with us about the many ways in which funding and job creation under the new infrastructure plan will benefit SMART members, President Biden’s executive order in support of project labor agreements (PLAs), the status of Build Back Better legislation, the upcoming mid-term elections, and more...

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Greg Hynes

Brother Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader, a member of Local 1081 in Arizona and SMART TD’s National Legislative Director. He discussed current transportation legislation, the dangerous scourge of “Precision Scheduled Railroading" and the difference a pro-labor administration makes for SMART members and working families across the United States.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question about Women in Construction Week, which is March 6 to 11.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 17: The SMART Member Assistance Program

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Chris Carlough

September was Suicide Prevention Month. This episode of Talking SMART is focused on suicide prevention, substance abuse disorder and all the resources and support available to our members through the SMART Member Assistance Program, or SMART MAP.

Our featured guest is Chris Carlough, SMART’s director of education and a man who wears many hats in our union. In addition to preparing new generations of union leaders for the tasks they have ahead of them when they start their careers, he also runs SMART MAP.  

At the end of this episode, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers. He responds to a question about the suicide prevention trainings that SMART is hosting, and how they can help connect SMART members in crisis with member assistance programs.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

 

 

Ep. 16: Mentorship and the “I Got Your Back” Campaign

Louise Medina
Louise Medina

In our new Talking SMART episode, we focus on mentorship, mutual support in the workplace, and working pro-actively to address issues such as hazing, bullying and discrimination. Our featured guests are SMART Local 265 Business Representative Louise Medina and Local 265 member Mike Powers.

Every member has had at least one person in his or her career who has stood up for them, provided formal or informal mentorship, or been there in times of crisis or need. SMART has launched the I Got Your Back” campaign as a way to recognize those who have stepped up and stood up for what’s right and to reinforce a culture of paying it forward.

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Mike Powers

Sister Medina is a Business Representative at Local 265 and serves as President of the SMART Recruitment and Retention Council. Brother Powers is also a Local 265 member who now serves as a trustee at his local.  He began as an apprentice at Wiesbrook sheet metal and spent his apprenticeship and following journeyman years learning all aspects of architectural and job management.  

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question about what SMART is doing to promote workplace environments that are free of bullying, harassment, hazing and discrimination.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

 

 

Ep. 15: Long Trains, Two-Person Crews and Rail Safety

In our new Talking SMART episode, we dig into freight rail issues that affect both the safety of railroad workers and the safety of communities around the country. Our featured guests are SMART Transportation Division Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo and Transportation Division Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson.

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Ty Dragoo

Brother Dragoo followed his father into the railroad industry and hired on as a conductor for Union Pacific in 2005. He has served as a legislative representative of Local 1503 in Marysville, Kansas, been the state’s legislative director since 2010 and helped lead efforts to create a transportation safety task force in his state. Ty spoke with us about his work in Kansas, including two-person crew legislation and the downsides of so-called precision scheduled railroading.

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Bob Borgeson

Brother Borgeson represents SMART in a state – Nebraska – with a high concentration of Transportation Division members and works to bring greater public attention to the important work our members do. Bob spoke with us about the negative impacts of long trains, efforts to move two-person crew legislation in Nebraska, and the innovative media and outreach tools SMART has used recently to bring attention to key rail safety issues in his state.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question about what SMART is doing nationally to try and make two-person crew the law of the land, especially under new leadership at the Federal Railroad Administration that is not actively trying to block two-person crew regulations.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

 

 

Ep. 14: The 1st 100 Days of the Biden-Harris Administration

Back in January, we met with Steve Dodd and Greg Hynes to talk about the 2020 election and what to expect from the Biden-Harris administration. We have brought them back for this Talking SMART episode to talk about the first 100 days of the administration and, more specifically, its impact on SMART members. 

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Steve Dodd

Brother Dodd is SMART’s Director of Governmental Affairs. He spoke with us about the many actions the Biden administration has already taken to support working families, including positive impacts of the passage of the American Rescue Plan on COBRA, unemployment benefits, multiemployer pensions, and funding for school HVAC retrofits. He also discussed the PRO Act and what it means for SMART members to have so many labor friendly people now appointed to top positions in the Biden administration.  

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Greg Hynes

Brother Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and SMART TD’s National Legislative Director. He discussed how the Biden Administration, in contrast to the previous administration, now very much has an open door for labor and actively seeks input from unions on issues of concern to working families. Greg also touched on how the American Rescue Plan included funding to rehire furloughed Amtrak workers, the significance of new leadership at the Federal Rail Administration which is now re-prioritizing rail safety over corporate profits, and what it really means when politicians or rail carriers say we need to just “cut back on regulations.”

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to multiple questions that have come in from SMART members asking about what steps the Biden-Harris administration has taken to address the multiemployer pension crisis. 

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 13: Illinois SMART Army Delivered When Disaster Struck

IL Locals Hit the Road to Help Texans 

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Matt Gugala

April is SMART Army Month of Community Action. And this episode our featured guest is Matt Gugala, an organizer with SMART Local 265 and the SMART Army coordinator for the state of Illinois.

Brother Gugala has been in the sheet metal trade since 1995, and was accepted to the apprenticeship program in 2002. He has worked on a wide variety of projects, including residential sheet metal, custom fabrication, commercial/industrial service and testing and balancing.  He was also a subject matter expert in developing the ITI’s TABB Supervisor test. In 2019, Matt was one of the inaugural winners of the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award for outstanding community service and leadership, along with Ronnie Hobbs from Local 854 in Virginia, who was on our last episode.

Matt talked with us about a recent SMART Army project by Illinois locals to gather and deliver a large quantity of bottled water to Texas residents in need of clean water after severe winter storms. He also discussed his work with the SMART Army around fire life safety legislation in Illinois, which significantly impacts both SMART member work hours and public safety.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question from a SMART member about what our union is doing to support members who are interested in running for elected office in their local communities and states.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

Ep. 12: The SMART Army is on the Move in Virginia

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Ronnie Hobbs

April is SMART Army Month of Community Action. And this episode our featured guest is Ronnie Hobbs, a true SMART Army pioneer. 

Brother Hobbs is the SMART Transportation Division legislative director for the state of Virginia, and a member of Local 854 in Portsmouth. In addition to working for Norfolk Southern and lobbying state legislators in Richmond, he is the state’s SMART Army coordinator. He has spent a lot of time and energy enhancing the union’s profile throughout the state of Virginia via the SMART Army. At the 2019 SMART General Convention, Ronnie was honored — along with Matt Gugala from Local 265 in Illinois — with the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award for outstanding community service and leadership.

We talk with Ronnie about the community projects and service the SMART Army has done in Virginia, including collecting clothing for the homeless, food drives, sponsoring Little League events and repairing and donating a golf cart for a young cancer patient to drive around his neighborhood.

We also discuss Ronnie’s state legislative work around two-person crew and other issues important to SMART members, as well as his mobilization efforts that turned out scores of SMART members to attend committee hearings, meet lawmakers and see in-person how the legislative process works.

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to a question from a SMART member about what union members have gained from our endorsement in the 2020 presidential election.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network working people's voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

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