November, 2003


Intelligence Report-UP Approaching Meltdown

Vice Presidents Jeff Verhaal and Steve Barkley are now in very deep shit because:

(1) The forecasted monetary savings from implementing RCO operations not only never materialized but, instead, cost overruns have proven damaging to UP's well-being and both individuals have been given some form of deadline (I wish I knew what it was) to get things together or it's the Russian front for both.  To kinda make that point evident on at least the Southern Region, Tom Jacobi is now spending lotsa time at Spring, learning about the Southern Region while Barkley spends every waking moment at Centennial Yard in Fort Worth trying to restore fluidity to operations throughout Texas .  Jacobi definitely knows his shit and has probably forgotten more about railroading than Barkley and his flea circus will ever know.

(2) Not only did RCO operation result in cost overruns but they also resulted in a terrible (literally) amount of wasted productivity, which has caused yards throughout the UP system to become too congested to take trains in and with the trains, and the accompanying power, not being able to get into yards, the main tracks are slowly becoming yard tracks.  Of course, with no power to run trains OUT of the yards, what has developed could be compared to what the German 6th Army experienced at the gates of Stalingrad in Feb., 1943.  Of course, no one pays any attention to the lessons of history, especially Missouri Pacific management.

(3) There have been five or more events of train dispatcher brain failure over the past four months wherein the train dispatcher's brain goes super-nova on the job.  Seems that the Missouri Pacific management thinks that train dispatchers are just so much flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life and, to really keep the railroad in tip-top shape, the MoP bunch actually has former clerks, MW types, mechanical types, and even marketing types supervising the train dispatchers.  That's kind of like having a dentist perform surgery on a cancerous brain tumor.  The operation was a success but the patient died.

Another highly interesting point of observation is that the five or six consecutive years of entering false information about train arrivals and departures, locomotive availability, cars switched every 24 hours, cars humped every 24 hours, cars held in yard over 24 hours, and even crew availability have apparently finally caught up to those super-intelligent Missouri Pacific (forget all about Union Pacific) managers.

Put another way, what is slowly being unveiled is Union Pacific's answer to Enron.  So Dick Davidson gets a $16 million bonus and the entire railroad takes a dump.  Hey, who cares?  With friends like Dick Cheney and Drew Lewis, Dick, ex-conductor that he thinks he was, has been just as successful at looting Union Pacific as Dennis Koslowski was at looting Tyco.  And where is Phil Anschutz in all of this?  One would think that, being the 49% stockholder, Phil would have more than a casual interest in his billions of dollars being pissed away in a rather cavalier manner by the Missouri Pacific railroad wrecking crew.

It would be most interesting to start a letter-writing campaign to institutional investors like CalPERS and other state pension agencies and let them know how their investments in Union Pacific are really being treated.  Or even the investment banks surrounding Wall Street.  All of those years of great operating performance reports with the resultant bonuses and highly subjective but favorable performance evaluations are gonna look kind of out of place once the peel starts coming off the banana.

  Randolph Field

  (Our intelligence is usually accurate. This report is three weeks old.  Jeff is history as of our publication date.  More to come-ED)

  We Get Letters, Part 32

Dear Editor,

I have received a lot of complaints about the Carrier's new weekend layoff policy, in which they have proclaimed Fridays are now a weekend day, but no complaint here!  I really believe this could lead to bigger and better things. Get this: If we could get Mr. Duffy to proclaim that nights are now days we would all feel a lot better about getting called at 23:30 , after they drop 3 turns, knowing that we are now working days!  And, hey, if we can get him to proclaim that Summer is now Winter think how happy the young men will be about their vacations! The sky is the limit with this gig.  I mean, he could move Christmas into November and save us from all those annoying last minute shoppers, and Thanksgiving to July (so we can barbeque outside and not be stuck in the house with Aunt Betty). Hey, I'm here to tell you this could be good!   The only down side to this would be reduced national productivity because the rest of the country has weekends OFF!  


A Model of Corporate Greed

In addition to being genetically disposed to greed, do CEO's of big corporations also carry the stupid gene?  Take the case of Dick Davidson, CEO of Union Pacific railroad. It's now our nation's largest rail corporation, having swallowed up such other companies as Southern Pacific, the M-K-T, Chicago & North Western, and several others. Apparently, though, Dick is not content merely to control the big trains, for he's also making a grab for the miniature ones - as in model trains.

How stupid. Like a bear being chased by thousands of angry bees, Dick has incurred the wrath of everyone from model-train makers to the hobbyists and kids who buy the models.   What's up is that Union Pacific has suddenly demanded that model-train makers pay a royalty on all sales of trains that bear not only its logo, but also the logos of any of the former railroads that it has absorbed. As the outraged editor of Mainline Modeler magazine put it:

"The Union Pacific has interposed itself into the model railroad industry, demanding a percentage of revenues . . . without any investment whatsoever. It's simply a method of skimming a profit without providing a service. It is an outstanding example of greed."

Over the years, railroad corporations, including Union Pacific, have been delighted to be the subjects of model trains, seeing it as a form of flattery, free promotion, and goodwill. For it now to threaten and demand loot from these small modeling companies is an act of PR suicide.

Sure enough, train buffs are fighting back against what they now call "the great yellow goliath." Among other actions, they're organizing UP stockholders and buying stock themselves so they can go to next spring's shareholder meeting en masse to rail against Dick's railroad job.  Dick stupidly is buying a trainload of ill will by trying to collect this pittance in royalties. To tell Dick to wise up, call him:  402-271-5000 .

Griever's Corner

Some Thoughts on Railroad Management.

Having been a Local Chairman before, during and, unfortunately, after the SP-UP merger, I have a rather unique point of view on the vagaries of railroad management, UP-style.   One of the first things I noticed was the complete lack of people skills exhibited by the UP top and middle managers.  These guys came across as arrogant, self-serving jerks, interested only in improving the numbers by hook or by crook in order to improve their chances on moving up the ladder. These folks try to lead by intimidation or coercion, constantly threatening discipline or dismissal if the hapless employee should run afoul of their "process".  This hasn't changed much, and although I have had occasion to meet some good managers on the UP, their influence is mostly cancelled out by the jerks.   Don't get me wrong; to run a successful business you must have a solid plan and the wherewithal to make it work.  Part of the frustration on the UP is that while some of the transportation plans and some of the ideas put forth to be a successful operation are very good, the problem is one of execution.  How do these so-called managers get the plan or process to work when they alienate their workforce from top to bottom?   Consider this:  Absenteeism policies that become harassment, so-called safety rules that confuse more employees than they protect, discipline based on an arbitrary and, at the same time, absolute system of "levels" not taking into account local and personal issues, persistent and purposeful violations of labor agreements through chronic CMS mishandling and timekeeping shortages, totally chickenshit field tests where crews are set up to fail so some "manager" can suck up to his Superintendent,  MYOs, MTOs and other three-letter bozos scabbing our work in the name of a manpower shortage they created through their own incompetence, and..and…

Well, I could go on for hours, but we all get the point.  Bottom line is this:  Management, if you don't have the people who get it done on your side, you are doomed to FAIL! 

 Other Stuff:

In the next few months we are going to lose about a thousand years of seniority and experience here on the SP Western Lines.  Yeah, I know that sounds outrageous, but think about it.  These guys who are retiring now have seen five or six man crews go to Conductor only.  They've seen cabooses disappear, clerks become almost obsolete, train orders become warrants (sounded ominous when I heard it!), radios replace crew members, paper time slips become computer screens, watch the FRA and PUC change from industry watchdogs to taxpayer supported trainmasters, and kiss off any hope that railroad labor would ever join forces against the worst management in history…Hell,  most of our old, dead switchmen would roll over in their graves if they saw us collecting union dues from company officers to scab our work.  I am ashamed to say I personally participated in this treachery.  I hope you will all forgive me, as I was misinformed, mislead and missed the point.  If the UP continues on the path they are on here in California , I believe that Arnold will lead the PUC raider team on an attack on Omaha which may result in the destruction of all that the Big Dick has planned for us.  It could be very nasty…In their usual half-assed way, UP is hiring the hell out of anyone who walks past an unemployment office.  Of course, they practice the same Nazi tactics as always as soon as they get these poor folks aboard.  We're watching you, we're going to fire you, we're going to execute your family, (Oh shit, I'm starting to read their minds!!).  These poor souls are washed out as fast as they apply, there is no rhyme or reason to the hiring process, just as there is none to their rail operation.  Let's face it folks, this place is out of control…For the new folks, a few tips for surviving in Hell: 1 Don't do anything that attracts attention.  This may seem obvious to most of you, but to those of you who don't know me, here is a lesson to be learned.  Shut Up! 2 Follow every rule to the letter, if possible.  I know this sounds impossible, but look at it this way; they ask the impossible of most of us every day.  3 Obey every order given to you as long as it is safe.  Nobody can make you do something unsafe as a matter of course.  If they try that they will self-destruct because the railroad management will cross the government management and they will cancel each other out, which may result in common sense. 

Remember the Golden Rule of Railroading:  One Train on One Track at One Time.  Do this, and you will prosper on some other railroad, but not the one you work for now.

You're fired! 

As always, work safely and look out for each other,