Southern Pacific Railroad History Center


Industrial Relations Department

The industrial relations department, which is a part of the operating department, is under the jurisdiction of a vice president, who reports to the vice president of operations.  From a jurisdiction standpoint, the functions of this department include labor relations, personnel, medical, and rehabilitation matters assigned as set forth below.

Labor Relations

The labor relations functions are the negotiation, interpretation, and administration of agreements covering rates of pay, rules, and working conditions of employees, the development and administration of programs to appraise and control operating results in terms of agreement costs and policies of operation under agreements.

In Southern Pacific’s labor relations organization, there are two senior managers, both of whom are designated as assistant vice president – labor relations.  One has the primary responsibility of representing Southern Pacific in railroad labor matters being handled nationally through the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which works as part of the National Railway Labor Conference to develop for Southern Pacific agreement changes required to increase productivity and to audit departmental understanding and uniform application of agreements.  The other manager has primary responsibility for handling day-to-day labor issue on Southern Pacific and its railroad subsidiaries and implementing Southern Pacific general labor strategy.  Additionally, these managers also act in advisory roles in labor problems of the non-railroad areas of the Company.

In addition to the assistant vice presidents, there are two managers of labor relations, one headquartered in San Francisco and the other in Houston.  From a labor standpoint, one is responsible for labor matters west of El Paso, Texas and the other, for the remainder of the Southern Pacific System.  They do, however, coordinate their activities while administering separate labor agreements with separate union representatives.  These manage are involved with more specific local issues, administer general labor plans, and supervise the overall operations of the department in their respective territories.

In each territory, there are several labor relations officers backed up a force of examiners and clerical staff who specialize in the various crafts.  The labor relations officers are delegated by their managers the responsibility of administering their respective agreements and to handle certain matters under the Railway Labor Act.  These matters involve dispute about the interpretation of agreements (grievances) and negotiations regarding Southern Pacific’s or the union’s desire to change rates of pay, rules, and working conditions.

The labor relations officers meet in conference with the general chairmen for the purpose of discussing and, if possible, and settling the various claims and grievances involving the agreements they administer.  If the claim or grievance cannot be disposed of in this manner, these disputes are subject to and often are submitted to compulsory arbitration, and it is the labor relations officer who prepares and presents Southern Pacific’s case to the arbitrator.


The personnel area is under the direction of the manager of personnel.  The department provides personnel services all departments of Southern Pacific by directing the interpretation and application of established personnel policies through offices located in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Tucson, Houston, and Pine Bluff.  Major functions with personnel include affirmative action, employment training (other than field operating training), employee communications, personnel services, audio-visual communications, and employee assistance programs.

Personnel works closely with labor relations in establishing and maintaining programs, policies Procedures, and controls regarding affirmative action programs, equal employment opportunity grievance handling, and general employment activities.  Employment programs include visits to high schools, colleges, and universities to promote and explain the various career opportunities offered by Southern Pacific.

To ensure that all of Southern Pacific’s employees have the opportunity to avail themselves of the latest job technologies and methodologies, the department analyzes training needs, designs appropriate programs, works with using departments in implementing their effectiveness in training to aid in self-improvement, speed adaptation to new assignments, and to improve job performance.

Through an employee communications program within Southern Pacific, personnel directs various activities designed to foster and maintain a high degree of employee morale.

The audio-visual communications group supports virtually all functions of Southern Pacific, especially promotional and training efforts, by providing multimedia methods of communication.  This group provides professional consultation to aid in the selectin of the most effective audio-visual media and equipment, as well as producing the presentations.

The employee assistance program involves family assistance counseling for drug abuse, alcoholism, and other personal problems.  Its services are provided through offices throughout the Southern Pacific System.

Medical and Rehabilitation

Medical services, headed by a chief medical officer in San Francisco, with assistants in San Francisco and Houston, include administration of pre-employment and periodic physicals, keeping abreast of medical and hygienic developments, and working closely with managers involved in the rehabilitation efforts.  Programs are managed for the treatment of on-duty injuries and the placement of injured employees.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop