PALM DESERT, CA — Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) general president Michael Sullivan addressed SMACNA contractors here, his first such convention since taking office.

It has become a tradition to invite the head of SMWIA to this gathering of management, and at this meeting he was well received — an indication of the state of management-labor relations in this industry, and a reflection of these prosperous times.

Still, Sullivan made no bones about it in stating that his key interests remain “organizing the unorganized worker.”

Sullivan suggested that service work might be a means of expanding union membership. He said that SMWIA would make a big push in that direction.

At SMWIA’s 40th national convention in August, Sullivan said that “New technologies and techniques in established industries are also opening doors in roofing and siding, blow pipe, construction, production, and service.

“We have real advantages in many of these areas. We have the workers, we have the skills, the tools, we have the commitment to quality, we have the productivity.”


Sullivan said changes are underway at the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI). It will concentrate on indoor air quality concerns.

He suggested a closer working relationship between IAQ contractors under a new certification program, and entrepreneurs such as casino, restaurant, and tavern owners who are seeking engineered solutions so their clientele can continue to smoke.

Sullivan also reinforced the “union label” for sheet metal and related equipment purchases among its members, and said the union would continue to discourage contractors from purchasing ductwork manufactured in lower wage areas — through fines, if necessary — which removes the economic incentive for doing so.

As for a merger with another union, Sullivan said he is pursuing some type of an alliance with the roofing contractors union, but not necessarily a merger. SMWIA needs to “reclaim” that industry, he said, which he estimated is only “about 25% at best” represented by sheet metal workers.