November, 2000

Here at Snakebites your editor gets a lot of mail, e- or otherwise.  But this is nuts!  Everyone on the planet must have a copy of the proposed UTU 2000 National Agreement.   I got my first copy from a BLE pirate.  Then our pals over at the Underground Railroad started a bunch of comments on their message board that would lead you to believe that nobody in their right mind should even read this thing because they are going to tell you what’s in it. 
Some of you old farts remember the TV series “Dragnet” with Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday. And do you remember his famous line, “Just the facts, ma’am.”   Well, let me ask that we wait until all the facts are on the table before we pass judgement on this.   Anyway, the bottom line is this:
Get the facts, make up your own mind, get a shovel so you can get the bullshit out of the way and make an informed decision. 

…or, Shut up and do as you’re told.

On the Lordsburg Sub, 09/18/00, from about 0830 to 0915, the following conversations took place over the radio between the Omaha Dispatcher 40 and be the judge.
The EP240 gave the Disp40 a 10mph speed restriction over the west switch Gage, and a 25 mph speed restriction over the east switch Gage. The Disp 40 wanted to know 1) who was finding these restrictions and 2) was there in fact a crew available to fix these restrictions. The Disp 40 talked to 'the chief' and told the EP240 that " when the 'Audio Gager' found the third speed restriction he was to stop work immediately, and not find any more restrictions until the first three were fixed, and then he could go back to work. We have too many trains out and running today and it would cost the railroad millions of dollars if we have all these restrictions out there." Of course the third restriction, a 25mph over the west switch Tunis came shortly thereafter and the Disp 40 informed the EP240 that that man must stop working.
 I happened to be on a 70 mph westward train that day and we started wondering if ANY of the switches we were approaching were good for a speed in excess of 25 mph. And if we were to go in the ditch, how many millions would it cost the railroad in damage to track, merchandise and delay of trains. Let's not even ponder the chance of injury or loss of life.
 The two unions are now vigorously pursuing this through the proper channels, hopefully with a copy of the dispatcher’s tape, and a list of the crews in the area that heard this conversation.
Brothers and sisters, we all really need to understand the rules have changed with the change of companies we work for. Do your job. Do it safely. And what they really want is for you to do what you're told. Please do not place my name on this as I don't need my 'level' level to rise.

We Get Letters, Part 1

Dear Snakebites:

At first glance of our newly proposed national contract I was ready to vote a resounding yes for acceptance.  There are just a few minor clarifications I  would like answered first, though.

1 - Will the carriers be purchasing enough luxury automobiles for our International  officers so that each railroad can be represented on a vanity plate?
2 - If George W. Bush wins in November,  will Charles Little be holding the dual positions of President of the UTU and secretary of his choice in the administration?
3 - If Gore wins will he accept what's offered as he is a true Democrat?
4 - Will the completion of the new UTU Spa and Manicure center being built in Cleveland by the carriers mean an immediate implementation of the historic 'Shit in a Bag' policy of the Norfolk Southern or will it be phased in gradually across our nation’s railroads?  (if that's the case, our brothers in Louisiana really should go first acct. their spicy Cajun food) 
5 - Will the next UTU convention issue a colored balloon array to all attendees with the cost to be deducted from TPA with a generous 10% discount?
6 - After signing this Historic contract, will Charles Little resume 'The Power of One' campaign and go after the weakened Air Traffic Controllers.

Quote of the Month

A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. 
Oscar Wilde

Griever’s Corner

Grinding away at the Rumor Mill…….
We hear Lt. Dan has finally found his niche:  As rest room MTO (manager toilet operations).  Be careful, though; missing the urinal is now a level four offense.

Speaking of level 4….be careful you don’t split any switches unless your job insurance is paid up or you really want that extra vacation time.  Our Super seems to think it’s a hanging offense, but he’s willing to bargain it down to a four-spot..

Speaking of our favorite Super..  Seems he’s declared war on BNSF trains on his railroad and will stick ‘em in the hole for everything including locals, lite power and ballast regulators, and has issued orders to that effect to his managers.  Careful, now.  Remember we use their railroad, too. What goes around……

Rumor has it that CMS rewards crew dispatchers with ice cream bars for doing a “good” job.  Is that true, callers?   Hell, if that’s the case I’ll buy a fifth of Jack Daniels for the first one that can get through a shift without mangling our agreement.

Yardmaster Sam is coming back on the ground after putting up with their crap for way too long.  Their loss.  Once again, UP proves how well it can run off good help. 

Speaking of good help…… When’s the last time a UP officer said “thanks” or “good job” to you?   It doesn’t happen often.  But good work and extra effort happens every day out there.
A little appreciation and recognition for a job well done goes a long way, a hell of a lot more than threats of discipline.  Seems the harder you work, the more they put on you, right?  Can you imagine how this place would work if most of the employees didn’t hate the company? 
I am proud to work with people who are as professional and safe as the folks I work with.  If the carrier doesn’t recognize it, at least I do.    Work safe, work smart, follow the rules and look out for each other.

Myths and Facts

Here at SNAKEBITES, we examine everything and nothing is sacred.  Because nothing is sacred, we are going to see if you’re as smart as you think you are.

Myth: If you don't understand a proposed agreement, just vote no! By voting no, everything will remain unchanged.
Fact: Everything is in a constant state of change. Under the Railway Labor Act, a change of agreement is a series of steps, one of which is membership ratification. If a proposed agreement fails ratification, the next step is to have some itinerant philosopher (better known as an arbitrator or (Presidential Emergency Board) decide what is the best for you.

Myth: Arbitration is a fair process and you stand an even chance of getting a better agreement than what was turned down.
Fact: Arbitrators come in three categories, pro-union, pro-company and neutral. There are virtually no pro-union arbitrators and damned few neutral ones. Arbitrators will never, never give you more than what was on the table and will most often give you less than the negotiated, but not ratified, agreement.

Myth: The reason we never strike is the union is gutless and caves in.
Fact: The Railway Labor Act, which is federal law, prohibits strikes unless it is a major dispute. Years of court decisions have interpreted almost all grievances as minor disputes which forbids striking as a solution.

Myth: Screw what the courts ruled, let's just shut the bastards down.
Fact: Those same court decisions have ruled that if employees participate in an illegal work stoppage, they can be held financially responsible for any loss of revenue,  which means that the railroad can sue you as an individual.  Ask the BLE what happened with a wildcat strike on the Long Island RR.

The Devil and Dick Davidson

The Devil went down to Georgia, to raise a little hell,
His first stop CSX, where things were going well.
He checked on Norfolk Southern, to see how they were doing 
And found their managers stern, the workers taking a screwing.

Then he went to Omaha and discovered fertile ground
At Harriman he whooped “Hurrah!” as he saw what he had found.
 “I’m from Hell and seen the worst, but this place takes the cake.”
“Whoever runs this is truly cursed, this tops my burning lake.”

He made his way to Dodge Street, looking for more vice
He stumbled into Dick’s suite, and declared, “This office will suffice.”
It was filled with fancy plaques and expensive carpeting
“There’s no disputing facts, this guy owes me everything.”

Then Dick walked in and Satan cried, “Yer soul is mine you turd”
But Dick just smirked as he replied, “You haven’t got the word?”
“Whadaya mean?” Ol’ Smokey pleaded, while scratching his horny head,
“The way your workers are being treated, they’re like the walking dead.”

“You’ve got me there.” Dick proclaimed, a sneer upon his face
“I’m the one who is to blame for the culture in this place.”
“When it comes to evil thoughts, you’re really not so great.”
“Cuz I’m the guy who calls the shots, the one they really hate.”

“Your not alert I guess, or you must have been sleeping”
“You haven’t called on CMS nor interviewed timekeeping”
“Plus we’ve plans to build a fortress, and each will have a cell”
“Where all will be oppressed, and we’re gonna call it Hell.”

Satan studied this infidel and thought about it some,
Then said, “You can have this part of Hell, from now ‘till Kingdom come.”
“But when your life is through, your soul belongs to me”
“For then the bill is due, and nothing is for free.”

Dick thought a spell before he would agree,
“I’ve lots of followers in hell, and most were just like me.”
 “You got yourself a deal.  But just remember this.”
“If this pact you repeal, I’ll force assign you to CMS!” 

(Exit Satan, stage left.)