Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unions Wrong About Drug Testing

Why is drug testing subject to collective bargaining?

The Massachusetts Joint Labor-Management Committee has taken jurisdiction of the contract dispute between the City of Boston and the firefighters’ union (Local 718). However, this step does not mean that mandatory alcohol and drug testing is any closer to becoming a reality in the Boston Fire Department.

The president of the state firefighters’ union has argued that the Joint Labor-Management Committee cannot consider drug testing in arbitration.

That view should not prevail, as this contract must begin the effort to break through the imbedded culture of the Fire Department by including basic management reform measures and mandatory drug testing.

Clearly, it is in the broader interest of the Commonwealth that all uniformed public safety employees be required to annually undergo standard drug and alcohol testing.
While this contract may be settled before such change, drug testing should be a state public safety requirement, not subject to local negotiations.

Following a tragic restaurant fire in West Roxbury in August, in which two firefighters died, city officials in early October presented to Local 718 a comprehensive alcohol and drug testing policy for negotiation. The union has yet to respond in writing to the city’s proposal.

The Menino administration had put drug testing on the table in contract negotiations with Local 718 in 1999 !!!!!, and 2004 but no agreement was reached.

Union resistance and the city’s desire to secure other needed management reforms in the Fire Department at a reasonable cost are why drug testing has not been yet approved.

The firefighters’ union maintains that the Joint Labor-Management Committee cannot consider drug testing as an issue for arbitration in the Boston dispute because the city did not list drug testing in its petition filed last August. The union would prefer to negotiate this matter separately with the city for a reported 21 percent salary increase rather than have the Joint Labor-Management Committee require drug testing in an arbitration decision.

The union’s position is not supported by state law or the Joint Labor-Management Committee’s case history, which shows several examples of decisions rendered in fire union cases that include issues not listed in the initial petitions, including drug testing.

Local 718 has high expectations for a new contract with drug testing and points to the 1998 police contract that provided for drug testing and also accepted the Quinn Bill. However, in that contract, the police accepted no salary increases in fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002 when firefighters received 4 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

Also, drug testing was considered innovative nine years ago and not the norm that it is today. Indeed, random alcohol and drug testing is more common in major urban fire departments around the country, including Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

The contract with Local 718 should include mandatory random alcohol and drug testing, but if it does not include other significant reform measures at a cost consistent with the recently negotiated public safety contracts, it should not be approved.

The stakes are too high for the welfare of the public and firefighters to settle for small incremental change in this contract.

Orignal Source: Boston Globe

Drug Testing Educators

The West Des Moines school district is believed to be the first in Iowa to adopt alcohol and illicit drug testing for all potential employees.The new policy was approved Monday and mimics private sector drug screening.

It is uncommon for public schools nationwide.

“We can say with a fair amount of confidence that this is the first such policy in Iowa,” said Lisa Bartusek, associate executive director for the Iowa Association of School Boards.

The school board unanimously approved the policy, which affects all potential employees and also current ones who are suspected of drug use. Employees who test positive for drug use or who arrive at work with a blood-alcohol concentration of .04 percent or more could be fired or forced to seek rehabilitation.

"It was surprising to me that other districts don’t do this,” said board member Susan Moritz, who helped craft the policy. “It came out of the idea that our bus drivers were already being tested, and if we felt that was important for our bus drivers, wasn’t it also important for the people who were in our buildings?”

The purpose is to “help new applicants understand that we simply don’t tolerate any kind of drug abuse on the job.”

Original Source: Des Moines Register

Random Student Drug Testing

Drug education programs and parental advice often aren’t as strong as peer pressure.

Studies show in the last year more than one in three high school seniors used illicit drugs.

Scott County Superintendent, Dr. Dallas Blankenship -
“We think that if we have a drug testing program it will help students to explain to their peers that they are not going to do drugs.”Somerset High School began randomly drug testing students involved in “privileged activities”, like sports and cheerleading last fall. Their principal, Jeff Perkins, calls it “one of the best things I think we’ve done.”

The Program
Both students and parents are required to sign drug testing consent forms in order to participate in privileged activities. Curricular or academic based activities like band, debate and choir are not currently tested, even though they too are competitive extracurricular activities.Students be tested are randomly selected and the process takes about five minutes per student. The test looks for the presence of drugs like marijuana, meth and ecstasy as well as prescription drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. If a test is non-negative, a second test is sent to a laboratory for additional testing. If the confirmatory test is positive, the student receives counseling and may have to perform certain tasks such as writing a paper and performing community service. The student is also suspended from participating in the privileged activity for a short period of time.

The Intent
Overall the random drug testing program is designed to be preventative and not punitive. It’s also designed to give kids who do test positive a second chance.“We’re getting on the other side of this now, some education and getting these kids in some type of rehabilitation program. And hopefully we can salvage that versus the other way which was throwing them away.”“The safety of students and to have a drug free environment are extremely important, so our board’s already made a commitment.”

Original Source: Chris Dietz, ABC News

Drug Testing for Traffice Accidents

Kansas House approves bill to require drug testing in ‘major’ wrecks.

Drivers and passengers involved in “major” traffic wrecks in Kansas would be required to submit to drug testing, if a bill approved by the state’s House becomes law.

State law now allows law enforcement officers to order drug testing, if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is under the influence.

The House voted 117-5 to forward a bill to the Senate that would require truckers and other drivers, as well as their passengers, to undergo drug testing when they are involved in certain types of wrecks.

Officers would no longer need a presumption of a drug violation to force drivers to submit to the testing.

Supporters say changes are needed to make it easier to test people involved in wrecks resulting in fatalities or serious injuries. The bill would allow law enforcement to collect evidence for potential criminal prosecutions, they say.
Opponents say it is unconstitutional to force someone to submit to a blood or urine test if there is no probable cause to suspect them of a crime.
A provision added to the bill would permit people to refuse to a test. Taking that route, however, could result in loss of driving privileges.
Another change to the bill would authorize officers to waive the test requirement if they believe the actions of the driver did not contribute to the wreck.
The bill – HB2617 – has moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Source: By Keith Goble, state legislative

Drug Testing in Schools

School Drug Testing

Bethlehem Schools Adopt Drug Testing PolicyAnyone looking to work in the Bethlehem Area School District will now have to take a drug test.Monday night, the school board voted to approve a pre-employment drug testing policy.

Starting immediately, new and prospective employees will have to get tested before they can work.

The policy was proposed after Nitschmann Middle School principal John Acerra was arrested on drug charges.

Loretta Leeson: "A drug test doesn't always screen everything but I think we're taking the right steps to at least protecting the children in the district and other employees in the district."One board member has requested looking into testing all employees.