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, and Clerical Employees are also represented by the American Train Dispatchers Association on short line railroads throughout the country. Their work locations are manned by as many as 600 and as few as 11. 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 Assistant 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