(edit 7/22/08) The title link takes you to an article by a fellow blogger, railfan, photographer and general rabel rouser that has been in the same situation regarding jobs.
For roughly the last 10 months I have rekindled my interest in all things railroads. Around February I had actually put in an application at the Union Pacific Railroad website. There were openings for "Train Crew Service" in Watsonville, Milpitas and Oakland. I had applied for all three to see what would transpire. I received an invitation to a reading comprehension test in April. I took the test scoring eighty five percent. It was a twenty question test to be completed in thirty minutes. Essentially you read from the freight handlers manual and then chose the appropriate answer. It was an interesting experience since this was a completely foreign area of knowledge for me.
A couple of weeks after I took the test I received an invitation to a hiring session at the Santa Cruz/Scott's Valley Hilton. They gave the lowdown on what the job was all about. Even though I had applied for specific locations, the job actually was a position in the Roseville service area. The geographic points of this service area stretched from Klamath at the Oregon border on the north side down to San Luis Obispo in the south and east to Winnemucca, Nevada. Once your training was over after about 8 weeks, you "mark up". You then bid with your seniority on open positions. Since you have little to no seniority, you may wind up bidding on a slot in Winnemucca, Nevada. You have 48 hours to report (on your own dime, I might add) to the location and find a place to stay. Admittedly, our HR rep doing the information session said a lot of folks sleep in their cars when they first arrive at their new location. However, there is a caveat. You could be on the way to this Winnemucca location and your cell phone could ring. It's the Crewmaster telling you you've been bumped off your newlty aquired position. Time to find a new job to bid on. You find an open shift in Bakersfield. Nine hours into your drive to get there, your phone rings again. Guess what? You've been bumped again. The process starts over. To top things off, you haven't even worked yet so you are not getting paid for any of this. The example is a worst case scenario but it could happen.
There is also a chance that once your training is over you could be furloughed because there are no open positions available. Accarding to the HR rep, thirty percent of the Union Pacific workforce is retiring in the next five years. That would seem to be good odds for moving up in seniority rather quickly. That doesn't mean that the service area you apply for has openings already. They may be hiring to prepare for future retirements.
The discussion also involved benefits. They spoke of co-pays for medical and prescriptions. Currently mine are infinitesmal compared to the described benefits of UP. The kicker was the vacation accrual. After two years you get a week. Nothing out of the ordinary. Four years, two weeks. Nine years, three weeks. Seventeen years for four weeks. Last but not least, twenty-five years years before you get five weeks. This may sound like a good deal to some. To me it was the straw that broke the camels back. I thought long and hard about taking a pay cut. I figured I could do it. I thought about the co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions. That would hurt a lot. The vacation schedule put a nail in the coffin of my dream job. With the inconvieniences and disruptions in your life and that of your family, the adjustment I would have to make to accept my dream job offer was more than I could handle.
At least I can say I got hired for my dream job! I'll have to keep my part-time "job" as a foamer for now!