February, 2001


The News and Nothing but The News

The folks at the BLE kicked the Evil Empire right in the shins on Friday, ,Jan. 27,  when they called a strike on the UP because of the Nazi tactics of labor relations and the puppet masters who so gleefully pull their strings. Of course, the UP pulled a snoozing judge out of bed and got a temporary restraining order against the people who make them rich enough to afford this sort of thing. Way to go, BLE, More power to ya.  Next time kick ‘em a little higher, OK?  We hear the UP found out about this “secret” strike when a BLE officer called in to lay off.  When they said he couldn’t, he said, “It’s really important. I gotta get ready for the strike!”

It Never Rains in Southern California…

A powerful winter rainstorm dumped heavy rains over the Los Angeles Basin including East LA yard.  Uncle Pete in his divine wisdom saves a nickel by refusing to maintain the yard tracks then loses a dollar on the back side when wide gauge derailments occur costing repairs to equipment and lost man-hours (but hey - that comes out of someone else's budget!)   Thursday January 11 saw several M.U.'ed switch engines being hostled toward the backshop lead for service go on the ground after the rail gave out.    The occurrence drew the usual crowd of finger pointing manager types from Operating, Mechanical and Track departments.  While the blame game was going on, none of these skilled leaders saw fit to place a red flag between the rails to prevent another such event until repairs could be made.
Fast forward to Friday January 12.  A large road locomotive went on the ground at the same location because there was no red flag warning of defective rail!  The ELA trainmaster was just about ready to put the gun barrel into his mouth after that repeat incident.   Not an hour later the lead from the wye experienced a broken rail effectively paralyzing the entire west end of the yard as the dispatcher could not give a signal.  At this writing the yard is still trying to dig itself out of the muck.  Power is stacking up and trains are being rescheduled. Regards from the front,

More Tales from Texas or; The Deadhead from Hell

Hello Fellow Railroad Co-workers, I just wanted to share a little story with all of you. I was called off the XE30 board to protect a yard job in Laredo at the Port at 22:00 Sun Dec.10th. I put off duty at 05:00  Mon. Dec.11th to deadhead back to San Antonio, at which time a carry-all was called. The driver, a local long haul from Laredo, showed up at the Port at 07:00. By coincidence, a San Antonio conductor was also there protecting a different job and was riding back with us. We departed the Port at 07:10. The driver took a shortcut across the median from the Port due to construction, putting us at the Border Patrol Checkpoint Station at 07:15. Unlike normal times, when Border Patrol Agents usually wave long haul limos thru, we were stopped, and asked our citizenship. While doing so, a Border Patrol drug dog began sniffing the van. Agents asked us to pull over to the side for a more detailed search. The driver seemed nervous at this time for no apparent reason. Three agents, along with the dog handler came to the van and asked for us all to get out. The dog jumped in the van and within seconds was going crazy. Then we were all placed under arrest for trafficking marijuana! When I asked to see what they were talking about, I saw a brick of marijuana inside a box of our drinking water, next to two six-packs of the water. After being arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted, photographed and stripped of all my personal belongings, we were placed in a holding cell (not pretty).  Moments later, agents brought in 5 cases of our drinking water from the van, unloading brick after brick of marijuana, a grand total of 51 lbs. in all.  F.Y.I., anything over 50 lbs. goes straight to being a DEA case! Three and one-half hours later, the DEA folks showed up to begin questioning. After another hour had passed, the long haul driver FINALLY confessed that it was his. We were detained for four and one-half hours! THE BEST PART...The MTO in Laredo was notified of our situation 15 minutes into it!  NOT ONE single person from the UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD came to help us!  After our release, we waited for another 2 hours for a McCormick long haul to come from Kingsville to take us home. BRAVO U.P. and BRAVO MCCORMICK. Beware of those water boxes in the vans!

“…this is Healthy Worker Speaking…”

Just when you think you've seen it all, they take the term "outrageous" to a new level.  It's kinda like watching the Howard Stern show.  You know he can be raunchy, degrading, and demeaning, but you continue to watch, because you don't know what's going to happen next.
I'm talking about the press release that was issued by the company in early February, which announced to the world that UP had won the " Platinum 'Well Workplace Award' (We were told the other US company to win was Union Carbide, who distinguished itself a number of years ago by fumigating a goodly portion of Bopahl, India; an action which resulted in hundreds of deaths.)

So, how did the UP win this award and who gave it to them?  The press release goes on to say that the "Wellness Council of America" gave it to them for: ". . .the Railroad's commitment to excellence in the pursuit of enhancing employee health and well-being. . ."This award recognizes those organizations that have successfully linked workplace health promotion objectives with business outcomes.”

Lets all just sit down, take some deep breaths, and try to keep our collective blood pressures under control, shall we?  You want salt, pepper, or salsa with your "balloon juice?!"  I know this is supposed to be a family publication, but I just can't help myself, when I say: BULL SHIT!!!!!

The events of the past 4 weeks alone, have done nothing to improve the health and well being of the UP's Operating Employees.  We have hundreds of people furloughed, extra boards running way too short, cancellation notices pending on a number of work rest extra board agreements (with more cancellation notices expected), as well as a ration of pay shortages for conductors, brakemen, and switchmen who were on duty and under pay when the BLE pulled their surprise work stoppage on January 26.  (Editor's Note: When the BLE pickets went up, many of the crews were already on duty and did not leave the property).  If you believe that this railroad fosters a healthy psychological work environment, you: 1) Just fell off a turnip truck; 2) Have an office on the 12th floor of the Omaha Headquarters Building; or 3) All of the above.

As best as I can figure, the "Wellness Award" must have something to do with offshore oil exploration.  From my observations and experiences, the only people that may be living healthier and more satisfied lives than ever before are the senior executives.  They certainly are not in a position to be victimized by the unilateral and continual CMS/Labor Relations agreement "policy changes,." not to mention poor train lineups.
The winter hibernation and gestation period has produced a bumper crop of "weed weasels."  They were ejected from the womb with radar guns in one paw, and a laminated plastic cheat sheet of Cardinal Rules in the other.  Hasn't their continued presence on the property enhanced the collective "wellness" of the operating employees? bet...!

It sounds to me like the UP, frustrated by it's failed efforts to win the coveted "Malcolm Baldridge Award," went shopping at SEARS, and bought an award instead.  They must have found it in the paint department.  If there is indeed a bona fide "Wellness Council," it had to take several thousand gallons of whitewash to make the awards application look like it was 
submitted by the Mother Teresa Foundation.
Until next time, keep the faith and Be Safe. 

Griever’s Corner

Back to the same old routine; we work, the carriers try to screw us.   The newest wrinkle is the rip-off started by some drone in Labor Relations to take away an engineer’s PL days because he didn’t have enough “starts.”  Never mind the guy has the whiskers to work a long pool and racks up a jillion miles, he doesn’t have the starts so he doesn’t get the PL days.  Welcome to Hell…Our spies from the south tell us that UP’s finest set up a few hundred portable generators along the line to provide power during the late bad weather in that region. They didn’t read the printing on the boxes that said “portable” though, because several dozen of them disappeared at about 1500 bucks a pop.  It’s in the budget, you know…Several of UP’s finest here have jumped ship to join the Calif. Public Utilities Comm. as inspectors.  Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?….Work/Rest boards are about to become history, as Worker predicted in December.  With the recent furloughs, expect to be called on your rest days and docked by the TPA folks if you don’t take the call or have the nerve to get a life… Safety first!  Locomotive engineers are being promoted to ground service and some of them have never switched a car in their careers.  Any training? You may ask.  Hell, no!  Well, at least now they’ll learn what it feels like to ride the side of a gondola full of junk for two miles in the rain…The bozos in DC have deemed us important enough to talk about reforming our retirement again.  Even got the BLE on board this time.  Guess that means they and the Republicans can take credit for it if it works.   Take all the credit you want, boys, just get me the hell out of here!…. The best part of being a railroader is the ability to lay off when you want.  Guess what?  The bastards are trying to steal that, too! UP has an “Attendance Process” that, if allowed to continue, will kill your right to lay off.  Ask your griever, your legislative rep. or whoever, but raise hell about this one or we might as well work on a chain gang.  Asked a Labor Relations guy about this and he said, “We’re just doing our job, you know.”   Right.  That’s what the guys who ran Auschwitz said, too….

Work safe, work smart, and don’t let the “managers” get to you,

Dear Dan Landers, advice to the switchworn..

Dear Dan,

I am a 1995 Engineer promoted to the exalted position of Switchman.  Being a switchman is much more demanding and requires much more focus than I ever imagined.  After being a student switchman for three days, I am now the Foreman with my own student.  I feel like I have been thrust into a position that I am not qualified or trained to perform safely.  I also have a student who depends on my ability to teach him  railroading, railroading safely.  I am so frustrated and angry I could just kick a hole or two, or three in the wall of the new Command Center.  I feel almost out of control!

Should I sign up for psychological help in the Employee Assistance Program, or should I just throw the nearest thing I can reach at the first Hub Superintendent I encounter?
I understand that a similar incident has already occurred to some poor bastard.  Frustration and anger are prevalent in this combative atmosphere; it makes me wonder if the Hub Superintendent has felt this way himself.

Dan, my question is about the new upgraded discipline policy.  Would someone who did these out-of-control things, that I am thinking of doing, be retained in service?  Would
they charge me with willful destruction of company property and assault, not to mention the obscenities and vulgarities that I would be shouting as I unloaded my frustration?  I would really like to know what level of discipline was assessed to the uncontrolled individual (Postal worker or former CNW manager) so that I can plan my next move.


Dear Bro Straightjacket,

If you do all of the above actions with guile and finesse, they will make you a Vice President; however, if you are sloppy and leave witnesses or detectable plaster patches on the walls, you will be sent to the Harriman Detention Center for psychological observation.  Remember, slaves are not fired!

Your Brother, Dan