December, 2004


Welcome to the SNAKEBITES Annual Christmas, Year-End Issue!

(Editor's note: Our apologies for the long dry spell between issues. We hope to get back to our somewhat irregular non-schedule as soon as possible. In the meantime, here's a few things we hope entertain you. First, from our archives, is this story so appropriate for the season that it has been requested many times since it was first published. From December 2002…)

Christmas in Railville (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Every Rail down in Railville liked Christmas a lot,
But the Rail Grinch who ran the Rail's railroad did not!
His stock price was dropping, his fuel costs were high!
Well, it must be the fault of some blue-collar guy!
"They'll expect the day off, with their kids out of school,
As my freight trains sit idle, just burning up fuel."
He fumed, as he stood there and he chewed on his nails,
And he looked down on Railville, just hating the Rails.
He puzzled and mused, and he wracked his Grinch brains,
"There must be some way to put men on my trains.
The schedules all say, 'in event of emergency,'
I can run Rails, who are fresh out of surgery,
Filling my trains up, and running my freight,
I'd better get started before it's too late!"
He stood in his suite, up on top of his tower,
Screeching out orders for over an hour.
"The fuel costs are rising, we have to move fast,
And run all our trains 'til the "danger" is past.
Emergency orders are now on the way.
Christmas will be just another work day!"
The crew callers called all the first-out Rail houses,
Waking up Rails and their kids and their spouses,
"Emergency orders! You have to move quick!"
"Christmas is canceled, we hear, from Saint Nick!"
The Rails and their kids and their dogs and their wives,
Resented the Grinch's effect on their lives.
The Rail Grinch had thought that it just might be fun,
To personally call up a Rail around one.
"Hello? Who is this? Is the Papa Rail in?
I've got to run trains and I really need men."
The voice that replied was both nervous and shy,
'Why are you taking my Dad away? Why?"

But that nasty Rail Grinch was so crafty and slick,
He thought up a lie and he thought it up quick.
"Your gift's in a boxcar way out there my Dear,
Your Dad needs to get it and bring it back here."
"Now, go wake your Daddy," the evil Grinch said,
"By the way, did I tell you that Santa is dead?"
His phone double clicked- it was Rail Grinch call waiting-
And he learned of the storm that had been his creating-
Then he heard the bad word come from his minor Grinches,
Of Rail freight train speeds that were measured in inches.
The words that his soulless Officials had said,
Rattled round and gained speed in his corporate head.
"The Rails all rejected our Christmas Yule tidings,
They're killing their trains on the main between sidings,
There's even reports that the sons-of-a-bitches,
Are tying down switchers on top of the switches.
They're laying off sick and they're laying off lame,
They're claiming diseases that don't have a name!"
"They're killing their trains or they're dodging our calls.
They're claiming fatigue! Oh the balls! Balls! Balls!!
"Our "Visions and Values,' they say, with a laugh,
Apply just to us and our corporate staff.
The tracks are all plugged and we can't move the trains.
They've blocked all the sidings and yard tracks and mains.
I really don't know, but I'd hazard a guess,
A week will be needed to clean up this mess."
Well what happened next? Well, the Rails all surmise,
That the Rail Grinch's sphincter grew three times in size.
The poor little thing was so over exerted,
By the size of the things that the Rails all inserted,
That the Grinch rubbed his butt, as he wiped off a tear,
And he said, "I don't think we'll work Christmas, next year."

(Special thanks to S.G. Palmer, K-Falls, Ore.)

…This is Worker speaking…

The UP may hate its employees, but it hates its customers more. The recent embargo on overtime proves it. In an effort to breath life into an already burdened overtime budget, managers in the Roseville Hub were recently on a jihad to eliminate all OT outright.

Forget the fact that on some of these outside industry jobs, you have to argue, cajole, and snivel to the IMT (I Make Trouble, er....."Industry Management Team") to get a work order within one hour of going on duty. Even then, you're lucky if your Work Order remotely reflects your programmed work and reality for that day. Oh yeah, and forget about getting a good track list. The print outs we get now are only a suggested possibility of where the cars are. The sequences are more mixed up than Ronald Reagan's mind at a presidential staff meeting.

Hey UP!!!! Wanna save some money? Scrap the IMT department. It's not working and never has. IMT is just another layer of bureaucracy. It doesn't improve the accuracy of the work orders, it just adds to our chances to make OT every day.

Hmmmmm. On second thought, lets keep IMT. I'm trying to save up for a vacation to Hawaii next year and routinely dealing with IMT for one or two hours a day will pump up my vacation fund!

....Oh yeah, back on track...This carrier wants NO overtime, which means that I still get to argue with IMT for one or two hours before I go out with my newly hired crew and put my train together. When we finally get going, I got about two or three hours to work all my industries AND be back in the yard office and tie up. That means I get to decide who gets switched and who doesn't on that day. Well, that's why I get conductor's rate of pay. I get to behave just like a manager and tell the customers to go pound sand.

I'm sure that the OT budget figures are looking really good now. Too bad that manager bonuses are not tied to customer satisfaction surveys (do they still do those?) Most rails wanna go out and do a good job. It is very disturbing that the management trend is to screw over the customers to save the budget.

I guess all that talk we heard a couple of years ago about "changing management culture" was just that....ALL TALK.

I see customers getting pissed off and going to trucks. Gee, more jobs lost to the trucking industry. The bright side is, that will help the TEAMSTERS UNION and should put a smile on the face of every member of the Bacon, Lettuce, Egg, and Tomato Union.

Keep your chins up and be careful out there!

UP Business (mal)Practice, Part 3

With the implementation of the new "GUI" (Graphic User Interface) computer system for work order reporting, the Union Pacific has developed a number of new abbreviated codes or reasons why WORK WAS NOT COMPLETED - ADDITIONAL CODES FOR WORK ORDER REPORTING:

EXCD: Exceeded all my work order minutes this month.
SPIDR: Black Widow on switch handle
SNKUF: Snake under the frog
DNUT: Received a Krispy-Kreme for giving the plywood place a second spot
RAYDO: Radio would only transmit on AM
SKTO: West Nile Virus rampant in Zone 10
PSY: Psyhic Hotline advised against it
STOOD: Endangered Spotted Toad under tie-plate
SON: Possible Spotted Owl Nest on first out car
ACI: Aluminum cans in walkway of recycler next door more attractive
BOOBOO1: Last time we tried to spot ‘em our trainee shoved over the bumper
SBFCW: Shadow between the first out car and the warehouse looks like a ramp
NOT: No Overtime
NGH: No garden hose at industry to fill overheated/dead locomotive
SDS: Conditions inside compound resemble a Sahara dust storm
BOOBOO2: Last time we tried to spot ‘em my helper shoved over bumper.
FEDTM: PUC/FRA Inspector hiding in weeds outside gate
NHABLA: Could not find anyone who could speak English to remove ramp in car.
SGTWFL: Shipper got tired of waiting and used a folk lift to do his own switch
NOCOKE: White powder on ground at wallboard plant could be anthrax.
EPCTD: Empty pull cars only been there for ten days.
BOOBOO3: Last time we tried to spot ‘em our foreman shoved over the bumper.
FLUDPLNE: Enough standing water at industry to float a Zodiak
NOSBLED: Pull cars have high hand brakes.
LZY: Pull cars have low handbrakes
LSTCAR: Might get those Omaha Steaks if I run the work for three more days.

Griever's Corner

Since this is the season to count our blessings, the best Christmas present the Roseville Service Unit could hope for has happened: For operating employees the reign of terror is finally over. By the time you read this, our much-maligned Superintendent will be history. That's right, Ol' Dan is on his way further up the corporate ladder and we wish him luck, 'cause he's gonna need it. Word has it he will be replaced by a human being. 

As we stare shell-shocked from our hiding places and begin to realize that it really may be over, we bid an un-fond farewell to the man who was living proof that yes, it can get worse Managers come and go, but switchmen are with us always.….Also, at this time we'd like to welcome aboard our new Super, Ray J. Perry. Good luck, pal, and we're keeping our fingers crossed…..Speaking of new folks: Be sure to get signed up with your union as soon as possible and attend any and all union meetings you can. Talk to union officers and get the facts. One of the most useful things you will learn is how to defend yourself from bullshit discipline. I'm not kidding here, folks. It's a matter of survival.

And, once again, I remind you: JOIN THE UNION THAT HOLDS THE CONTRACT FOR THE CRAFT YOU WORK IN!! It's that simple…. Local Stuff: The Roseville Yard "Shit Happens" Trophy hasn't been awarded for a while. This means we're working safely. Keep it up and keep looking out for each other.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Your editor would like to thank all of you who have contributed to our humble little rag this year. Looking forward to more next year, we wish all a Safe, Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!