April 2003



". . .This is Worker Speaking. . ."

Loyal Order of the Orange Vest

The BLE Arbitration award is out and guess what?  It was ok for the carriers to negotiate an agreement with the UTU that permitted the ground service people to operate the remote control locomotives.  The BLE's response to the arbitrator's decision?  They were "outraged."  Am I "outraged?  No.  Am I disappointed?  Yes, and for various reasons.  It is disturbing that the BLE didn't see the light and merge with the UTU PRIOR to this remote BS.  The leadership of the BLE has done a great disservice to its membership by letting this one get away.  The railroads have won another victory by just sitting back and watching the two organizations feed on one another.  As a consequence, people running the RCO's under the UTU agreements get an additional 46 minutes pay.  A recent call to the Psychic's Hotline revealed that the RCO protective slots may or may not be there, depending upon the alignment of the planets in the solar system, and the prevailing winds aloft.  I've taken the RCL training and am now a card-carrying member of the "Orange Vest-tites."  The paltry 46 minutes pay aside and with apologies and sincerest regrets to my many hoghead friends, this technology does work pretty well.  With very little effort, it is easy to use and can be mastered.  However, I'm stating the obvious when I say that $150,000 worth of computer automation and control equipment installed on a 25 year old EMD SD40 does not equate to a wheels-up locomotive rebuild.  But during the RCL cut over they have the CANAC reps buzzing around like mosquitos in a swamp.  One phone call and they are on site faster than the Round Table Pizza delivery guy.  I can't help but wonder what will happen when they leave the area (or the service contract expires, which ever comes first).  So, while the officers at the BLE International continue on their outrage rampage, my hoghead friends have to go to the road (or come into the yard in ground service).  With the US President's preoccupation over the Iraqi invasion and occupation, I don't see much attention being paid to BLE public efforts to paint RCO operations as unsafe.  While it is true that a number of local city councils across the US have taken action to ban their use, it remains to be seen if such laws can be legally enforced.
I can't help but wonder what the BLE plans next.  Maybe they and their Teamster buddies will join in the fight to ban leaf blowers and Native American Gaming efforts?  Their chances for success would be better, as the RCO's are here to stay.


Griever’s Corner

Good News and Bad News Dep’t:  Gil Vernon’s arbitration award closed the books on the BLE-UTU remote control conflict. Now we just have to figure out what the hell to do with it.  It’s a lead pipe cinch the UP doesn’t have a clue….Speaking of RCOs, we have yet to see this high-tech stuff attached to a new locomotive.  Or even one in reasonably good shape for that matter.  They put several hundred thousand dollars worth of computers and mechanical equipment on some of the most worn out crippled junk in the fleet.   More down time than work, but hey, they don’t pay us to produce anymore, do they?…Politics as Usual Dep’t.  Just returned from the generally deplorable process of choosing our general committee officers for the next four years.  There seems to be no honorable way to do this, so it’s politics as it always is; back-stabbing, double-dealing, screw yer buddy while you shake his hand. Once in a while the good guys should win one.  Well, some of them do but most of them don't.  Life ain’t perfect, folks…Business Development Dep’t: We hear that UP is hiring a high-tech Co. from India to help them operate CMS more efficiently.  Anybody ever hear of the Black Hole of Calcutta?  We also hear the minimum wage there is: “we won’t let you starve, just almost.” How do all those folks in Omaha who are losing their jobs feel about that?  Building America, my ass…  Unanswered Question Dep’t.: How come we get to train these groundhog BLE members in RCO technology, which, of course, they consider so unsafe that they’ve taken their campaign to every City Hall, County Commissioner, dogcatcher and PTA meeting in the country.  If you guys in the Brotherhood really want to show a principled stance, don’t bump a UTU guy off one of those horrible remote control jobs….By the way, before you UTU toadies get to gloating too much just remember that the big guy was so busy rubbing the BLE's nose in it, he got us a whopping 46 minutes pay for this work. Therein lies the real problem.  Labor leadership thought it was more important to protect their turf than their membership.  Remember that the next time you pay your dues or vote or think the guy across the cab is your enemy. He isn’t.  We’ve all been had…Good Guys vs. Bad Guys Dep't: We hear through the local grapevine that managers on the UP are being somewhat nasty in their descriptions of each other.  Overheard from a conference call: "That guy is screwing me. This is nothing but SP cowboy bullshit!"  Better an SP cowboy than a UP Nazi! World Class Railroading….How Much Does it REALLY Cost Dept:  Recent news articles have placed Dick Davidson's stock and bonus perks this year at a paltry 11 mil.  No big deal, unless you look at the tight-assed operation closer to home.  No way, they say, can we have something for the troops in the field.  Even low-life local managers and yardmasters get UP jackets, mugs and other trinkets.  I noticed that every member of the Labor Relations crew that passed through here recently was equipped with a fancy UP watch on a belt-loop fob.  Must be for their enviable safety record, right?  Operating folks get zip, even though we are the ones that make the drone's jobs happen while these glorious and enlightened bureaucrats and managers take the credit in spite of their mismanagement and, in the case of these same LR parasites, try to screw us out of a few bucks that we've had a contractual right to for years (maybe that's why they got the watches?)…


The Good Old Days

Or: Remembering Art Schoener.

Art was someone to avoid when possible.  I failed to avoid him one day.  I had just headed my train into the siding at Lawtell, Louisiana to meet #9 (New Orleans to Houston hotshot).  Just 6 miles east of Lawtell is Opelousas, which had a 15 mph speed limit (city ordinance, back when we paid attention to them), entire train through the city limits.  The conductor on #95 highballed the engineer past the city limits.  The engineer said, "Highball, #95."  What he should have said was, "Highball, MP extra 611 west, out."  I say that because Shoener was riding ahead of #95 in a highrail driven by our superintendent at the time, P.L. Tucker.  Shoener got on the radio and chewed the engineer, C.J. Bythewood (Daddy Chris) up one way and down the other for improper radio use.  This from a man sitting in a high rail on the mainline with no authority to be there, whatsoever.  I had dismounted the engine (MP engineers were required to look trains by from the ground back then) when Tucker pulled up in his high rail and stopped even with me.  Shoener stuck his head out the window and said, "What's the rule for the day?"  I said, "Rule 108."  He said, "That isn't the rule for the day!"  I said, "It's MY rule for the day every day!"  About that time, Daddy Chris popped around the curve about 2 miles to the rear.  Before Shoener could say anything else, I told him Daddy Chris was bearing down on him, and they needed to move on down the line.  Shoener said, "He knows we are ahead of him."  I said, "Exactly my point."  Shoener said, "He wouldn't dare hit us."  I said, "You are out here with no track authority, and you just humiliated this man on the radio."  Tucker gave me a funny look and hit the gas pedal before Shoener could say another word, shoving him back into the seat.  About 30 seconds later, Daddy Chris came roaring by me going at least 10 mph over maximum speed and still accelerating.  I gave him my biggest highball.  Unfortunately, Shoener and Tucker managed to get far enough ahead of Daddy Chris that they were able to set off at Eunice.  Bythewood would have run them down in a heartbeat.  They were so shook up, they decided to spend the night there in Eunice.  The local sheriff called our agent to bail Shoener and Tucker out of jail that night.  Seems the boys got a little cocky with some locals, ended up in a pool cue fight, and got their butts whipped.  Ed Coleman, a brakeman/conductor turned engineer, was tight with Tucker.  He visited Tucker in Houston a week later, and Tucker still had black eyes.  I would have given anything to see what Shoener looked like.  I got 30 deferred days for not knowing the rule for the day.

Thanks to Bob Currie of  Temple, Texas

Guest Editorial

(Editor's note) Appropriate to this taxing season I found a reprint of an article from Murray Rothbard. Hopefully, some of you may become curious and read more by this great man.  Our country would benefit greatly.

April 15, that dread Income Tax day, is around again, and gives us a chance to ruminate on the nature of taxes and of the government itself.

The first great lesson to learn about taxation is that taxation is simply robbery. No more and no less. For what is "robbery"? Robbery is the taking of a man’s property by the use of violence or the threat thereof, and therefore without the victim’s consent. And yet what else is taxation?

Those who claim that taxation is, in some mystical sense, really "voluntary" should then have no qualms about getting rid of that vital feature of the law which says that failure to pay one’s taxes is criminal and subject to appropriate penalty. But does anyone seriously believe that if the payment of taxation were really made voluntary, say in the sense of contributing to the American Cancer Society, that any appreciable revenue would find itself into the coffers of government? Then why don’t we try it as an experiment for a few years, or a few decades, and find out?

But if taxation is robbery, then it follows as the night the day that those people who engage in, and live off, robbery are a gang of thieves. Hence the government is a group of thieves, and deserves, morally, aesthetically, and philosophically, to be treated exactly as a group of less socially respectable ruffians would be treated.

(There is) one act of the public which our rulers fear the most: tax rebellion, the cutting off the funds by which the host public is sapped to maintain the parasitic ruling classes. Here is a burning issue, which could appeal to everyone, young and old, poor and wealthy, "working class" and middle class, regardless of race, color, or creed. Here is an issue which everyone understands, only too well. Taxation. 

Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995), the founder of modern libertarianism and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author of The Ethics of Liberty and For a New Liberty.