HISTORY and PURPOSE
The American Train Dispatchers Association is an AFL-CIO-affiliated craft union representing employees in the nation's railroad industry who safely and efficiently operate and dispatch trains, and supply the electric power for those railroads which use electricity for train propulsion and signalling.
This union was founded in 1917, in Spokane, Washington. Its present International Headquarters is located in Cleveland, Ohio.
Several crafts are represented by the American Train Dispatchers Association.
Assistant and Night Chief Dispatchers supervise other Train Dispatchers and see that locomotives and train crews are made available to move the railroad's freight traffic and commuter trains in the metropolitan areas. They are primarily concerned with oversight and planning the railroad's operations.
Trick Train Dispatchers are responsible for the actual train movements. They meet and pass trains safely and with minimum delay, keeping in mind the operating capabilities of the railroad's various locomotive types and the speed and weight characteristics of the individual trains. They must be well versed in the railroad's operating rules and must know the physical characteristics of the geographical territory in their charge. They must also be conversant with the many Federal laws regulating railroads;
for example, the Hours of Service Act, which limits the hours certain railroad employees may remain on duty.
Power Supervisors or Power Directors and Load Dispatchers control the distribution of electric power to those railroad lines, primarily in the Northeastern states, which use electricity for propulsion of locomotives and commuter trains. They must initiate switching to ensure electric power is made available when the normal sources are unavailable. They must protect employees who are working on the electric lines, to safeguard them from injury or death by electrocution. They must also work with power suppliers, both private and public, to ensure the supply is uninterrupted.
Trainmen, Enginemen, Maintenance of Way Employees, Mechanical and Clerical Employees are also represented by the American Train Dispatchers Association on short line railroads throughout the country.
Members of this union are located in Anchorage, Alaska and in Jacksonville, Florida. They can also be found in Maine, California, Texas, and Canada. Their work locations are manned by as many as 600 and as few as one. Methods of operation range from verbal instructions to written orders, to sophisticated, computer-assisted devices which use ground signals and radio transmissions to direct train movements. Land lines, microwave, radio, satellites, and fiber optics all find their uses in train dispatching.
The American Train Dispatchers Association, one of the smallest unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has a lean structure, which nevertheless services its members well in their most important needs. Only six full-time officers, two appointed Directors of Research and a small office staff provide representation in discipline and grievance handling, negotiate with railroads, both individually and collectively, arrange for legal assistance as needed, and engage in legislative activity on behalf of our craft and rail labor, in general.
Members enjoy a health and life insurance program funded by the railroad employers, and a retirement system administered by the Federal Government. The American Train Dispatchers Association participates in most of the programs offered through the Union Privilege Benefits Department, AFL-CIO.
This union is also affiliated with Transportation Trades Department, Rail Division, AFL-CIO, a cooperative endeavor of unions in the railroad industry, to assist each other primarily in the legislative and legal arena.
Moving in to the 21st Century, technology and entrenchment in the railroad industry have lessened the numbers of Train Dispatchers. Ever greater skills are required to safely and efficiently move the nation's rail traffic with the latest and most advanced equipment. Commuter passenger rail is a rapidly growing segment of the industry, and forward-thinking authorities look ahead toward the growth of high-speed rail as tomorrow's most efficient and comfortable way to get from here to there.
To our readers, we thank you for your interest in our story. We hope the next tune you see a freight train, or see or ride a passenger train, whether Amtrak inner-city, or commuter, or high-speed train, you'll remember the men and women behind the scenes, whose first objective is your personal safety and that of the public, and whose next thought is moving the nation's people and freight business expeditiously and efficiently.
THE SYSTEM COMMITTEE
The System Committee is a committee of officers that are elected from and by the ATDA members on that System. Each railroad is a System and therefore has its own System Committee.
The General Chairman is the top officer of the System and is responsible for handling all matters with the company. The System Treasurer is the custodian of the System Funds, or the System's financial officer. These two offices are elected system-wide. The Vice General Chairmen and/or Local Chairmen are elected on each system as needed. Their main responsibility is to assist the members with claims and grievances.
The ATDA offers training to the System Committee in an effort to help those elected to office to better understand what their duties and responsibilities are. In addition, all Systems are assigned to a specific ATDA Vice President who assists the General Chairman and System Committee with negotiations, the handling of claims, grievances and discipline, and in all other matters which may arise.
All members of a System, through their System Committee, will decide what's best for them in the way of agreements and in the conduct of their business. The National Office, including the Vice President assigned to that System, is there to assist - not dictate. While the ATDA Constitution and By-Laws (CBLs) require that all agreements reached must be approved and signed by a National Officer, the General Chairman is involved in the making of agreements. The ATDA CBLs also require that all agreements pertaining to changes in wages and working conditions must be ratified by the membership affected by the agreement.
All Systems are also entitled to delegates to the ATDA General Assembly (convention) that is held every four years (the next one will be in the fall of 2011). The ATDA CBL provides that each System is entitled to one delegate for each 40 (or fraction thereof) members in good standing. The General Chairman and Vice General Chairmen, by virtue of his/her election to that office, is automatically a delegate. Any additional delegates are elected from the members on the System.