April 2004


Griever's Corner

Our spies have sent back info relating to UP paying for trucks to haul hotshot UPS traffic out of the LA basin because of acute congestion on the rails. They have evidently made a deal with BNSF to take lower-priority shipments off their hands, but the hot loads are moving on rubber wheels. No wonder the BLE merged with the Teamsters! What foresight! I wonder how many engineers will be driving trucks on LA's freeways next week?  Now the general public is getting the UP treatment.  Adding fifty or so trucks a day out of this area has to increase traffic and reduce the safety of the public measurably….Speaking of the BLEats,  I am absolutely pissed that their local representatives have decided to mislead and rip off our new hires.  They show up at new hire classes before these guys can get their feet under them and fill 'em up with absolute bullshit about claims handling and representation, then start deducting dues money before they finish their training.   All they've really done is piss off most of the new guys and soured them on union membership.  It's really very simple, folks.  Become a member of the organization holding the contract for the craft you work in.  If I was an engineer, I'd probably be in the BLE, but I'm not, and neither is any new guy.  So cut the bullshit and union politics and let these folks start off their railroad career right…As long as I'm picking on unions, how 'bout that UTU?  Our leader has plead guilty to a racketeering charge and has resigned as President.  He was charged with shaking down designated legal counsel for cash payments.  No honor in that.  Now, in the name of getting our house in order, our newly-appointed President has expelled a lot of good attorneys from the designated ranks.  Let me get this straight; The victims who got shaken down are being thrown out?  If you want to clean house you should start with your own.  How about making all the International Officers sign an oath of honesty that they were not part of the shake-down?  Put your hand on the Bible, raise your right hand and swear you were not part of the problem.  Now our new Prez adds fuel to the fire by mandating we cannot invite attorneys to our local meetings nor recommend injured members to attorneys who the International hasn't designated.  Hey Paul, I read the constitution.  You do not have the authority to issue those instructions.  From now on, this local will have a "Local Designated Legal Counsel."  We don't need the International dictating who we can use or recommend.  Having a locally designated counsel is the ultimate solution and I recommend that every local dump the International recommendations and look around for their own competent attorneys to designate! …..OK, now that I've pissed everyone off, local stuff next:  Our 27th annual retirement dinner was great fun.  As usual I'm jealous of the retirees, having a few more years to go on my own sentence….Added a few points on the Shudak-O-Meter with the return of Brothers Chandler and McNamara…. New hires: look out who you work with.  Follow all rules to the letter and don't violate 'cause some old head told you to do it. It'll get you unemployed in a hurry…Safety is always foremost for those of us on the front lines, so I want to congratulate everyone in the Roseville Terminal for going so long without an injury.  The carrier bought the stuff and we had a great safety barbeque on April 1, (No Foolin') and look forward to more of the same.  No matter what our differences with management, we all benefit from a safe workplace.  Keep it up.  As always, work safely and look out for each other.


News from Around the System

From: "THE SQUIRREL HUNTER'S GAZETTE", Possum Holler, Arkansas.

After a lengthy presentation by representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's
Union , the city council voted today to become the 51st community in the US to adopt a remote control safety resolution.  The debate over the resolution was spirited and sometimes confusing, as a number of council members initially thought that the resolution pertained to garage door openers and TV/Satellite dish controllers.  Since no one in Possum Holler has a garage or owns a TV, the counsel was prepared to vote the measure down. However, the BLET representatives clarified the  intent of the proposal and after further debate and deliberation, the counsel voted to adopt the safety resolution.  In an interview afterwards, Mayor Thurman Pew said: "This here measure makes good sense, 'specially if the railroad ever decides to build a track through the holler."

On the Health Front

Omaha ---UP's vaunted Health Services Department recently announced a new program to reduce the effects of stress among its mid-level managers.  Because of long hours, tension and poor eating habits, many of our front-line managers have complained of headaches, insomnia and "performance anxiety."  An alarming number of these managers are unable to perform their marital duties.  As a result of this problem, UP has given each male manager an unlimited prescription for Viagra and instructed him to take it regularly.  While we only have preliminary reports at this time, it appears the only noticeable change is that these managers have become a bit taller.

As the Board Turns 
 (introducing a new feature: a soap opera for rails!)

It started out like any other day. Eight times out and the first train on the line-up was forecast for 4:00 am . If everything fell right, which it never does, I'd be looking at a shooter by mid-morning. I decided to gamble by staying up to watch Survivor All-Stars, a program much like UPRR except that here the managers decide who to vote out of the tribe. Then I went to bed.


I slowly come to my senses and realize it is the phone and I drag it to my pillow, "Uh, hullo?"

A harried voice demands "This is the railroad for Mr. Whipsawed."

"Uh, ahem, that's me, what time is it?"

"I have you called for 1:00 am on the MCRAP01."

Now I'm awake and inquire "Uhhh, where's everyone else, I was eight times out a couple of hours ago."

The caller gets defensive "Mr. Whipsawed, all I know is your name came up on the screen. Are you going to take the call or what?"

At Level 3 I don't need anymore problems. "Yeah, alright." I sigh.

Drag my ass out of bed and take a quick cold shower to revive myself. Throw a few clothes in the bag and make sure my wife has the number to the Local Chairman, a good FELA attorney, and all the insurance companies in case I never come back. I always call her when I arrive at the away terminal so the instructions are for her to call the LC if she doesn't hear from me in 24 hours.

Stop by the quickie-mart to fill my thermos and load up on survival food then head for the yard office. I glide through the door right on time and MTO Firem is there to greet me.

"Whipsawed, get a move on, we gotta get this train built and out of the yard." He blurts out and I notice a nervous tick in his left eyelid.

Oh great, the train isn't even ready, I'll just play stupid, "No problem boss, just as soon as I complete four delayed tie-ups, check all the latest general orders and notices and gather up all my paperwork."

"You can complete your delayed tie-ups some other time." (Is it me, or is he turning red?) "I have your paperwork ready and your engineer is waiting in the carry-all." he retorts while shoving a wad of fan-folded computer paper at me.

Well, heck. I'll just play along, "Sure thing bossman, I'll head right out." I respond with that cheerful, idiotic looking grin I've honed over the years, "But I gotta take a leak first. This coffee went right through me." Is it me or is he getting even redder. "Shaking the bush here, boss." I toss over my shoulder as I head for the can.

A short while later, I mosey out and throw my grip into the back after having dug out my lantern, gloves, radio, ear plugs, safety glasses, switch keys and all the other do-dads that are such an integral part of modern railroading. I crawl into the backseat and notice my hogger is another veteran like myself. We mumble hello and head toward the train.

We arrive at the head-end and sure enough, we have to lug our gear down a gully and up the other side in order to reach the lead unit. While the hoghead checks out the engines, I look over the list to see what the damages are. Hmmmm, two set-outs and one pick-up before we can make the air-test.

"Why even have yard crews if the road crew has to do its own switching?" I mutter to myself.

Then the light-bulb goes on. With the new emphasis on securing equipment, and with the requirement of 5 handbrakes on this gentle grade, I may have to release and secure 45 handbrakes? And of course, I'll need to protect the point on the two set-outs. And the Air test will require me to walk the train four times! Now to comply with all these rules and not get charged with "delaying the train" is something we live with all the time but suddenly I feel up to the task. "Yessir," I smile to myself, "I may even find a bad order or two."

The thought of being relieved before I ever leave town fuels my determination to do a "good job." My decision is reinforced when the engineer reports that two of the engines are low on fuel. "Let me call the bossman and see what he wants to do." I reply with an enthusiastic grin.

(Stay tuned for the next installment of "As the Board Turns" as our audacious hero uses his railroading savvy to battle wits, rules and common sense with a variety of alphabet managers, MTO's, MYO's MOP's and maybe even a DTO.)

Quote of the Month

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."           Napoleon  Bonaparte