Cleveland wage deal good for education, union membership

Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 33 part of agreement to help build jobs, apprentices

FAIRFAX, Va. – A career starts with education, and sheet metal work is no different. Students in Cleveland now have more opportunities to choose union sheet metal work – or another building trade – as a career and receive the education to be successful in their chosen field.

This spring, several Cleveland organizations agreed to an amendment to the Community Benefits Agreement the city, unions and many other organizations signed in 2013. The amendment serves as a way to encourage contractors to hire minorities, women and city residents instead of out-of-city or out-of-state subcontractors to keep money in the city.

Organizations involved in creating the amendment include: Construction Employers Association, Hispanic Roundtable, Hard Hatted Women, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Partnership, the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Community College, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council.

In short, the amendment prevents lower-paid, unskilled labor from potentially performing substandard work while relying on union members in multiple trades to use their expertise to mold the future tradesmen and women.

“It’ll allow contractors to be competitive on projects and provide job opportunities for members and new apprentices who graduate from the trade schools,” said John Nesta, training director for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 33 near Cleveland. Local No. 33 is a member of the Construction Trades Council. “It’ll help raise the bar for the students in Cleveland schools to be competitive when students are applying for apprenticeships.”

It’s a cyclical program, with each part moving a student’s career forward.

Using the National Building Trades Multi-Craft Core Curriculum, staff from Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 33’s training center, for instance, will help to teach students from trade schools to help them meet union standards for apprenticeships straight out of high school.

The state-approved pre-apprenticeship program will introduce students to all the building trades and allow them to decide which fits their interests and skillsets. Once they decide, the program will prepare graduates to apply straight to union apprenticeships. The unions agreed to work with the apprentices to gain the skills and knowledge needed for a career in the trades as well as work with them until they are hired.

With construction jobsites in the city agreeing to hire city residents, minorities and women, the students will have a realistic shot at well-paying jobs.

“What is good for our contractors is good for our membership, and what is good for the membership is good for current and incoming apprentices,” said Mike Coleman, business manager for Local No. 33. “In the end, not only will it provide more jobs for our apprentices, it will secure positions for our journeymen as well.”

Nearly 10,000 apprentices are registered at 153 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit or call 703-739-7200.