In some areas we have heard of management telling employees that “they will go by the union agreement” as if it were some sort of threat. In at least one of those cases, the employees took the manager up on his challenge. Much to his surprise, they now experience the full benefits of the contract including better pay and a better quality of life with no real negative consequences. Why would management ever think we would fear following the union agreement? The answer is “special treatment.” These so-called “sweetheart deals” are special arrangements that only certain employees enjoy while nestled snugly in the company’s bed, while their union brothers are left out in the cold. Strictly following the agreement often leads to a revocation of these special deals— you get kicked out of the bed. The Signalmen who follow the contract are sometimes subject to criticism by those who had their special treatment taken away. As a brotherhood we support and defend those Signalmen who abide by the contract. We oppose side deals because they undercut the entire contract and weaken our solidarity. They are also unfair and unenforceable. Sometimes they can even get you and your supervisor disciplined or fired. The mentality that there is “give and take” when it comes to following the contract may work just fine for an individual but giving up rights for side deals will eventually harm others. Sometimes it may be a challenge keeping up with the laws, company rules, and policies, in addition to the contract. However, Signalmen who understand the contract and live by it rigidly have a special kind of freedom their counterparts do not. They can sleep soundly at night –with a little less railroad in their life and a little more money in the bank. As always, copies of the agreement can be found on our website at http://brsbnsfgc.org.