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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Christmas Spirit in the DS Office


Date: 12/24/23 11:11
Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: Englewood

The season always brings to mind this story of the true meaning of the railroad holiday spirit.

At one time in the last century I worked in a two desk dispatching office.
Actually there was one DS desk and one Chief DS desk, both manned around the clock.

It was explained to me that overtime was not paid on holidays, as such, because in some previous
contract the annual holiday pay was added up and divided equally into everyone's monthly pay.

On Christmas the railroad was normally "shut down".  It was explained to me that the custom was to
have each DS work only 4 hours and cover both the DS and Chief Desk.  It was strongly emphasized
that they were all "big family men" and they all relished the opportunity to spend the extra four hours
with their family on Christmas.  It certainly sounded like a good idea to me !  What a great bunch of guys.

A few years went by and due to incompetence at many levels, the DS office included, we had quite a few
meltdowns that severely impacted many other railroads.  A consultant was brought in to straighten things out. 
The consultant had been let go by a Class 1 a few years previous for being partly responsible for a huge post-merger meltdown.

The consultant said that one of the solutions would be to change the role of the DS office as had been
done on his former railroad.  The Chief Dispatcher job would be eliminated and the desk dispatcher's
territory split in two with the former chiefs working the new desk jobs. 
The Chief DS job would be replaced by a new management position.

To sweeten the deal for the union members, the dispatchers would all make the Asst. DS rate and
get double time and a half for working holidays !  That 2 1/2 being added to the daily rate that already
had the holidays factored into it !

Now for the rest of the story but first a bit of math.
Two 24/7 desk jobs equal 42, 8 hour shifts.  8 people working 5 shifts equals 40 shifts so 2 shifts a
week were "open". The two open shifts were normally filled by the extra man unless he
was working a vacation. 

One year Thanksgiving and the day after; Christmas Eve and Christmas; and New Years Eve and New Years Day
(all pay holidays) landed on the two open days. The two open days were on third shift. 
The regular third shift man's eyes popped out of his head when he saw the bonanza he would be missing
out on because the holidays were on his day off.  That damned extra man would be getting the big money !! 
The regular man thought this was highly unfair and that he was entitled to that money.

The regular man discussed it with other old heads in the office who were also seasoned money
grubbers (called the "elite").  Now the big family men who relished time with their families smelled
blood in the water. F that nonsense about spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with the family - there
was big money to be made by one of their own.

So in the spirit of the holiday season the union HQ was contacted and an amendment to the
contract was written stating that an older in seniority, rested man, could bump a lower seniority
man off a holiday job as long as the oldest man would then be rested for his regular position.
That meant the regular third shift man could now work the six holiday pay days.

In their blindness to take care of one of their own in this special case "the elite" didn't take care to
word the contract amendment to protect themselves from one another. While the purpose was to
screw over the extra man the amendment was not worded that way.  So to much gnashing of teeth
by one of the elite and much laughter by the bottom half of the roster, the instigator of the
amendment bumped one of the younger elite off a holiday a few years later.

A very interesting side note to all this was when someone asked for a copy of the DS contract,
the Union Rep would point them to an inch thick manila envelope.  It was filled with loose papers,
partial contracts from the 1960's, and other random things but nothing that you could hold in your
hand and say "this is the contract".  Most interesting was an article from an old dispatcher's union
(ATDA) magazine article. The article emphasized that the union had worked long and hard for many
years to get a 40 hour week and that effort should not be disrespected by members sharp-shooting
for overtime. Apparently at one time the union's symbol had been a clock face with the hands pointing at the numerals 5 and 8. 
A 5 day 8 hour work week.

One other example of the holiday spirit occurred when the father-in-law of a DS passed away two days before Christmas.
The DS was allowed 3 bereavement days.  Knowing that the 3 days would run into Christmas Eve and Christmas, there would
be no funeral that day, and that taking Christmas off would mean someone else would now have to work
Christmas, the DS asked if the bereavement days could be split. The Chief smelling some big overtime for
someone if the DS was off Christmas Eve and Christmas said it was not allowed to split the bereavement days. 
The DS told him fine, he would only take the one day.
They could all go F themselves.

By the way, one of the loose papers in the "contract file" was a letter from the past from the elite to the company
giving the company the right to name the Chief DS whenever a permanent opening occurred.  That was done out of spite. 
The practice had been to fill it in seniority order but at one time the next in line was out of favor with the elite. 
That letter came to bite them in the ass sometime later but that is another story for another time



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/24/23 11:16 by Englewood.



Date: 12/24/23 11:53
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: RetiredHogger

Ah yes....."blood in the water".

I recall watching (and listening to) a guy talking about his plan for the bumping that was going occur because of an auto plant year end shutdown. He was confidently bumping his way through the plan until he stopped, and with a shocked look on his face said, "I'm not going to have a job."

Funny how that hits home when you're the one getting "whacked".



Date: 12/24/23 15:59
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: Drknow

The Mile Hogs. The Elite. Goldilocks (working too much; not working enough) every craft has em, and 9/10 Karma bites them in the ass sooner than later. I try to put a weed up their ass whenever I can, for fun and profit.

Merry Christmas everyone. 🎄

Regards

Posted from iPhone



Date: 12/25/23 07:08
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: mojo

After all of this, and they still can't dispatch trains.



Date: 12/26/23 05:03
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: Englewood

mojo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> After all of this, and they still can't dispatch
> trains.

Roger that !



Date: 12/31/23 01:05
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: Seventyfive

Several hours ago I was contemplating a few stories to post in January, and planned to headline them
"Tales from the Dispatchers' Office."
The classic you posted aces out the stories I had in mind and the "Tales..." title may fit your stories best,
although "You can't make this stuff up" works as well.
I really enjoyed this one !  



Date: 12/31/23 05:29
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: Englewood

Seventyfive Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Several hours ago I was contemplating a few
> stories to post in January, and planned to
> headline them

Looking forward to hearing your Tales..........



Date: 12/31/23 09:31
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: TAW

Englewood Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Seventyfive Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Several hours ago I was contemplating a few
> > stories to post in January, and planned to
> > headline them
>
> Looking forward to hearing your Tales..........

Likewise.

TAW



Date: 01/04/24 18:14
Re: Christmas Spirit in the DS Office
Author: CubsFanJohn

Thanks for sharing. As someone who wasn't around back in the older days it's always fun to read about them.

Posted from Android



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