Every day, thousands of railroaders come to work at Union Pacific Railroad’s shops and yards, working with heavy machinery and tools – for the safety of every employee, mental health will always be a priority. Union Pacific employee volunteers are trained with one goal in mind – provide support when it’s needed most, with access to immediate resources that can help.
Subscribe to Inside Track
“While not everyone needs to be an expert in substance abuse or mental health, showing empathy, care and having a voice are crucial,” said Robert Manlove, project coordinator, Denver, Colorado. “Creating a safe environment for employees to seek support is an ongoing process that requires plenty of conversation and ongoing education.”
As 2024 gets underway, Union Pacific is encouraging any employee interested in volunteering and supporting these in-house peer support resources to contact their local Operation RedBlock or Peer Support coordinator for more information.
'I Didn’t Know What Else to Do': Wyoming Signal Maintainer Makes the Call, Now Helps Others
In 2021, Signal Maintainer Scott Davis completed training as a Peer Support volunteer to learn how to help others. But earlier that year, the Engineering employee from Wamsutter, Wyoming, needed someone to answer his own call.
“I was almost a statistic,” Davis said. “I was dealing with a lot of lifechanging events at home, and it took its toll on me. One Saturday morning, I was having a panic attack and didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t feel safe being alone. I called Peer Support Coordinator Robert Manlove, then went to my mom’s house.”
Manlove listened. Union Pacific’s Peer Support volunteers offer sincere, emotional support to peers experiencing a traumatic event, family illness or loss. Together, they made the decision to call the Employee Assistance Program and start Davis’ journey to healing.
“I began seeing a mental health specialist,” Davis said. “Without Peer Support, I don’t know if I would be here today. It’s empowering to know people do care.”
Davis recommends Peer Support to his peers: “Anxiety, depression and panic make you feel alone. You’re not. If it’s obvious that something is going on, listen. We have to learn to be vulnerable to get the help we need.”
‘Operation RedBlock Helped Save My Life’: Iowa Locomotive Engineer Pays It Forward
When thousand-pound rail cars are on the move, the stakes are high – and substance abuse can’t be part of the equation. Operation RedBlock (ORB) volunteers, like Jeff Fletcher, help make sure it isn’t.
ORB is an employee-led, union-supported and company-sponsored education and awareness effort to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace, preventing small problems from becoming big ones. When necessary, volunteers refer team members to the Employee Assistance Program for 24/7 assistance and support in lieu of disciplinary action.
“Operation RedBlock played a big role in saving my life,” said Fletcher, locomotive engineer. “I struggled with alcohol, but I have been sober since November 2013.”
Now Fletcher chooses to pay it forward as a local coordinator in Council Bluffs, Iowa, helping fellow railroaders navigate life’s challenges.
“It’s not just for us; it’s for our families,” Fletcher said. “An issue can affect everyone. If you’re struggling, it’s important – be courageous and ask for help.”
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. If you, your family or others need assistance, please contact the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - call or text 988 to get immediate, free and confidential support from a trained counselor.