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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Train Dispatchers: labor vs management


Date: 11/29/16 11:56
Train Dispatchers: labor vs management
Author: TAW

In Date: 11/27/16 18:55 Thanksgiving shutdown (that didn't happen) Author: TAW
rob_l Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> On most railroads, dispatachers were union. On a
> few (notably the UP before mergers), they were
> management. That was a huge advantage. The Chief
> Dispatcher was a management position that
> outranked all trainmasters, and trainmasters had
> no authority to override any holiday plans issued
> under his signature. Or any non-holiday plans for
> that matter.

That topic has come up a few times and since it is a big topic, I'm putting my reply in a new thread:

I was a train dispatcher for B&OCT, SP, and BN and was an operator for MILW. I worked with/knew train dispatchers from just about every railroad in Chicago. I didn't experience the general animosity toward train dispatchers (union or not) until 1980.

B&OCT/B&O were still very much Daniel Willard's railroad (he was well-known for labor relations - I have a book about it somewhere. The short version is in a YouTube video: search B&O Railroad Museum TV Network: Daniel Willard), but C&O was coming in the front door and I slipped out the back.

We were union, but were actually more like warrant officers - somewhere between labor and management. We had the responsibility, the authority, and were expected to use it to a very high standard:
http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?2,3995849,3996408#msg-3996408 Date: 03/28/16 11:28 Re: If you were the King of Chicago... Author: TAW:
     Back then, ATDA membership required the sponsorship of two members in good standing. Their signatures were required on the application (imagine that now!). On the completion of my 60 days, Tony Franicich asked me to come to the office. He gave me the application. He and Jerry Johnstone signed it. He told me that I was entering a small group of the best, like being a Marine. He told me that, yes, ATDA was a union, but it was also a professional organization. They expected me to act the part and be the part and never let them down. That was a proud moment. Can you imagine anything like that being said or happening now? That's the way it was back in those days. I never let them down...but the industry and the union sure let me down.

One afternoon, I came work as 2d trick Chief, relieving the boss. He told me that there was a possibility of a strike during 2d trick and if it happened, the army would take over the railroad. My instruction was:
Don't forget that this is your railroad. I don't care if they send a general, the only reason he comes in here is to get instructions from you, say Yes Sir! and leave. Fortunately for everybody, the strike didn't happen. It would have been ugly.

When I went to SP, the train dispatchers were still held in high regard and were expected to use the responsibility and authority professionally to a very high standard. There was a little trouble locally in Bakersfield, but it wasn't a labor-management thing, it was the Superintendent being an ex-hoghead and hating dispatchers. The Chief and the dispatchers still ran the division and if The City wanted something, they asked; they did not tell.

I was just an operator on MILW, but it appeared that the train dispatchers still had the authority that went with the responsibility, with no union-management problem. I can't say the same for operators. I had never experienced such treatment anywhere else.

Things were the same when I hired out at BN in 1976. Train dispatchers still had the responsibility and the authority to go with it, but the standards were nowhere near as high as I had experienced at B&OCT and SP. I was working for the Chief (train dispatchers used to work in place of their management Chief in his absence) when a strike occurred. BN was ready and management were in position to run trains. 2d trick couldn't get in past the pickets, 1st trick had to leave because of Hours of Service, so there was just me. Wenatchee, the exempt (management) agent acting as the operator, gave me a call (power, cars, crew) on a west man, 4 F45s and 4800 tons. To my surprise, the Chief Mechanical Officer was running the engine. It was snaining (snow/rain) above Winton. F45s were slippery engines, so I told Wenatchee to reduce to 4000 tons. They were going to be the only train out there and I didn't want them slipping down with no help around. The agent exploded: Who do you think you are? I'm the exempt (management ) agent. You're just a dispatcher! I'm not reducing the train. It goes as it is! Later, a little mouse in the corner told me that the CMO calmly said You got part of it right. You're the Agent. He's the train dispatcher. Reduce the train.

So I was a little (a lot, maybe) spoiled when 1980 came along.

First there were the Frisco Folks who hated anything/anyone BN (WF, Pisser Bill, Thompson threw the Pacific Division Asst. Superintendent out of the business car, directing him to ride the caboose just ahead of it: There's no place in this car for people like you.) and hated unions more than that. Then came the folks from the outside who didn't have a clue. It was only then that I started to see the really big train dispatchers (union or not) vs management rift.

> I was out of the UP before MoP-UP, but obviously
> things deteriorated after the mergers.

 It appeared to me that my UP colleagues in Albina were respected no more than us. The guys I talked to didn't sound terribly happy about their situation. I remember the big sign of the deterioration when I called on the direct line to my colleague in Albina who controlled the Tukwila interlocking. The regular man wasn't there. Albina answered and in dispatcher talk, as usual, I said BI coming south 9 minutes. (Southward BN train coming south at Tukwila in 9 minutes needs to be lined up.)
The response was Do what?
I said Southward BN will be at Tukwila in 9 minutes to which he responded Uh, ok, what do you need?
I'm looking for you to line him up to go through.
Uh, ok. Where?
Tukwila
Uh, OK. Where's that? They just put me on this job today.
Just south of Seattle. Probably way over on the right end of the display somewhere.

Over the years, others have told me about being required to follow the orders and let what happens happen. A former protégé from Olden Tymes worked for UP. He told me that he quit in lieu of putting up with the stupid decisions and the responsibility without authority.

TAW



Date: 11/29/16 12:05
Re: Train Dispatchers: labor vs management
Author: rob_l

Yes, the post-MoP-UP UP was a totally different place. I am grateful I did not experience it (and I am grateful I experienced the 1970s UP).

If there were any truth in advertising, the surviving company should have been called the MoP.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/29/16 12:06 by rob_l.



Date: 11/29/16 12:17
Re: Train Dispatchers: labor vs management
Author: TAW

rob_l Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yes, the post-MoP-UP UP was a totally different
> place. I am grateful I did not experience it (and
> I am grateful I experienced the 1970s UP).
>
> If there were any truth in advertising, the
> surviving company should have been called the
> MoP.

...and the other surviving company should have been called Frisco.

TAW



Date: 11/29/16 15:52
Re: Train Dispatchers: labor vs management
Author: kennbritt

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> rob_l Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Yes, the post-MoP-UP UP was a totally different
> > place. I am grateful I did not experience it
> (and
> > I am grateful I experienced the 1970s UP).
> >
> > If there were any truth in advertising, the
> > surviving company should have been called the
> > MoP.
>
> ...and the other surviving company should have
> been called Frisco.
>
> TAW

At the time of the BN/Frisco merger I was a locomotive engineer in Lincoln, NE.  I designed t-shirts and caps that used the old Frisco coonskin wrapped around the words Frisco Northern in the BN typeface.  I left in '83 so I didn't experience the second upheaval when the Santa Fe took over.

Kennard Britton
Bedford, TX
 



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