Embracing Shared Goals and Prioritizing Mutual Interests

I had the first-hand opportunity to witness the SMACNA/SMART labor management partnership at work. I was honored to join General President Mike Coleman on the stage at the 2024 Partners in Progress conference, where we highlighted our strong relationship with labor and how we value collaboration, not confrontation. 

   Carol Duncan

I had the first-hand opportunity to witness the SMACNA/SMART labor management partnership at work. I was honored to join General President Mike Coleman on the stage at the 2024 Partners in Progress conference, where we highlighted our strong relationship with labor and how we value collaboration, not confrontation. 

How do we maintain this positive momentum?

From my experience, everything starts with a core set of fundamental agreements that everyone in the labor/management paradigm adheres to. First, always presume good intentions. Instead of assuming that one’s objectives are not in everyone’s self-interest, take stock of a simple truth: We’re all in this together. Management cannot thrive without a high-skilled workforce. And labor cannot succeed without the opportunity and infrastructure provided by contractors. Instead of walking into talks in a defensive posture, be open-minded and ready to heed suggestions.

This ties into the subsequent core agreement, where we embrace shared goals. To ensure that we are moving our industry toward prosperity, we must align ourselves to objectives that benefit all of us, not just some of us. One example of this is the work that SMACNA’s Labor Relations and Government Affairs departments have done to revise prevailing wage rules and expand the use of project labor agreements. Union contractors are now open to more opportunities, labor is witnessing the opportunity to leverage their highly-skilled workforce on critical projects, and our public sector clients are seeing their projects regularly delivered on time, on budget, and at the absolute highest quality. This outcome was only accomplished because our joint goals were in alignment.

Finally, we must continue to prioritize our mutual interests. In any labor/management relationship, there will be issues where we fundamentally disagree. However, we can't allow the 10% of things that we disagree on to override the 90% of things that we agree on. Does that mean that we stop working on those 10% of things? Absolutely not. There’s always room for improvement, which means that instead of getting frustrated about any perceived lack of progress, we leverage the numerous joint wins we have to continue fostering teamwork and collaboration. Allowing one issue to impact a spirit of overall cooperation negatively will yield much more harm than any benefit obtained by prevailing on a singular issue.

We must come together collaboratively as true partners in progress and work jointly to advance this industry. 

Carol Duncan, SMACNA President