Group Protests Drug Testing Policy 

Group Protests Drug Testing Policy 
Posted by FoM on May 31, 2001 at 21:22:04 PT
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
About 100 State Department employees are protesting the federal government's policy of random drug testing, charging that the practice is not a cost-effective deterrent and is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of workers who have nothing to do with national security.Calling themselves the Defenders of the Fourth Amendment, the group is wearing buttons with scarlet D's -- as in RDT, or random drug testing -- to signal their opposition. Some said they would refuse to take the test.
They are challenging a 15-year-old policy, one that federal officials believed they had fine-tuned to the courts', if not the unions', satisfaction."The issue is one of morale, the issue is one of injustice to an individual," said Jon Schaffer, an Office of International Information Programs manager who was called recently to take a random test. "They argue it is a deterrent. I would question that. I feel this is a waste of taxpayers' money."Schaffer took the test. But one woman, a program officer in OIIP, was suspended for three days without pay when she failed to come in for a random test last fall. She was telecommuting from her home near Fredericksburg and she said she had no car that day.Many employees challenging the policy worked for the U.S. Information Agency and were not subject to drug testing until parts of USIA merged with State in 1999.They want the policy suspended for those whose jobs are not sensitive, and they want the agency to negotiate with the employee unions to iron out issues involving telecommuters.Their protest has highlighted the fact that a mere one-half of 1 percent of workers at the State Department fail the test, a trend mirrored in the rest of the government and which is far lower than that of the private sector.That rate holds true for both random and applicant screening, the two major components of the government's drive to keep federal offices drug-free."There's a certain cosmetic quality to this whole program," said George Clack, a team leader for print publications at OIIP who was tested in October. "Computers were disappearing from the State Department while people like Robert Hanssen are being employed at the FBI, and people who have no reason to be dealing with high-security things are being subjected to random drug tests."The Cost of Sending a Message:So why spend $104,000 at State and $10.7 million government-wide annually on a program that identifies no more than 400 possible drug users out of 1.8 million workers? Because, officials say, drug testing is a deterrent.President Bush and Vice President Cheney in January took a drug test to show their support for the program. Since they took office, 127 White House employees have been randomly tested -- none failing."Random testing will send a message that an individual, if they use drugs, has a reasonable possibility of being detected," said Robert L. Stephenson, director of the division of workplace programs at the Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. "It sends a signal to a person who is even thinking of using illegal drugs that they are putting their jobs in jeopardy."But some industry consultants say the private sector is moving away from the practice, preferring other methods, such as testing on the basis of "reasonable suspicion" or after an accident."Most employers are finding they're not getting the return on investment they thought they would," said Eugene F. Ferraro, chief executive of Business Controls Inc., which helps Fortune 500 companies develop drug programs and policies and conduct undercover investigations of employees suspected of drug use.The American Management Association, which annually surveys major U.S. firms on a host of issues, reports that workplace drug testing has declined over the past five years to save money and because of a tight labor market.Eric Rolfe Greenberg, a statistician for the association, said that after surveying firms on workplace drug testing every year from 1987 to 1996, he could make no statistical case that screening acts as a deterrent."We saw test-positive rates remain constant; we did not see a decrease," he said. "If it remains the same, how can you make an argument for a deterrent? It should go down."Defining the Testing Pool:The battle over drug testing stretches back to 1986, when President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order declaring that the federal workplace be drug-free. Since then, legal challenges have whittled the number of employees subject to testing to those in "sensitive" positions, that is, workers who have security clearances, who carry firearms or who deal with public safety or national security or who are presidential appointees.The Supreme Court has upheld the legality of federally mandated drug testing, while not specifically ruling on random testing, holding that the government's interest in public safety and national security outweighs the individual's right to be free from a governmental search. And it has declined to hear several appeals of lower court decisions upholding random testing in the federal workplace.Some government officials say the tests have been so successful as a deterrent that they have reduced the scope of testing.At the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for instance, spokeswoman Beth Hayden said the annual failure rate is so low -- one or two out of 800 -- that the agency has gone from testing its entire 1,670-person pool to half. She said pre-employment testing and stringent background checks contribute to the low rate.At the State Department, 12,400 out of 26,000 employees are in the testing pool.That includes everyone with security clearances, including secretaries, though half are overseas and are not tested. Of the other half subject to testing, about 600 to 700 are called each year.Union officials argue that because minorities and women disproportionately occupy the civil service and because they disproportionately occupy the lower levels of the civil service, the policy affects them most. They are also upset that the overseas foreign service staff is not drug-tested.Gary Galloway, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1534 at the State Department, said he has worked with eight employees who tested positive between 1996 and 2000. Five were lower-level clerical employees, a sixth was an administrative officer with office management duties, a seventh was a printing specialist and an eighth was a procurement agent, he said.None had staff to manage or were in a position to shape policy. All were minorities. All but one were women.Barbara Long, a graphic designer who passed a random test a few months ago, said the urgency of the call and the brusqueness of the nurse jarred her."I feel that I was treated as if I were guilty until proven innocent," she said.State Department officials say they strive to create a friendly test environment.Cedric E. Dumont, personnel medical director for the State Department, said that when USIA merged with State, the unions did not object to the drug testing policy. He said the former USIA employees were included in the testing pool because, like himself, they might be asked to join a meeting at which classified material is discussed.Note: Random Screening Intrusive and Ineffective, Government Workers Say.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Friday, June 1, 2001; Page A29 Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #20 posted by Lehder on June 02, 2001 at 06:01:35 PT
insane drug war
that's what many people call it, and, with Tim Stone's point of view in mind, the expression takes a literal truth that ought in fact be useful. i wish i had the competence to make a really accurate diagnosis of the drug war regarded as an individual, building on TS's start with obsessive/compulsive. our fight has been an uphill one to say the least, yet a crazy person ought to be Easy to manipulate, Easy to push his buttons. the job is all the easier than a genuine quack's since were not trying to cure or help anyone, were trying to get the crazy "person" to walk over a cliff. i would mean to be a very very bad therapist and cause my patient the gravest possible injury.i'd sure like to hear more from Tim or Ethan or anyone who can offer more insight to a complete and accurate diagnosis. and help arrange a very dark prognosis.
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Comment #19 posted by Lehder on June 02, 2001 at 04:14:46 PT
after that interview
i had the idea that i should have claimed further that i had certain deformities that would cause me special embarrassment and that a drug test in my case would be discriminatory and damaging to me psychologically and that special, expensive arrangements would have to be made for my particular case. it might have been interesting to see if any sand could be thrown into the system. besides, i'm sure there are people who Do have a problem here. make it expensive and embarrassing for them by bringing up angles on the subject that are as embarrassing and sensitive as you can possibly imagine and discussing them openly, persistently and at length. get an interview you don't need and make trouble. throw sand in the machine. but, really, i have better things to think about than drug tests.
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Comment #18 posted by Lehder on June 02, 2001 at 03:57:21 PT
excellent and insightful comment, Tim Stone
thank youThis much, if you don't mind my saying, I've thought of myself:Here's a goofy Friday night thought: If the drug war were a person rather than an ideology, a panel of psychiatrists would very likely declare it insane and institutionalize itto prevent it from harming others. and it would be not so goofy at all to evaluate the drug war as if it were a person with the Statistical and Diagnostic Manual in hand. I find your argument very interesting, and your diagnosis convincing: obsessive/compulsive. Still, the drug war is infused with hatred so the "individual" in question is probably suffering from some additional malady.---------------and i would encourage everyone to NEVER take a drug test. i once had an interview - for my personal amusement and free lunch only - no intention of taking a job. when the subject of drug testing came up - and this only happens when they want to hire you - i put on a bit of a show. i twisted and squirmed and squealed and pleaded. i claimed that i was an honest person who could be taken at his word on this matter, could be trusted and that a test was not necessary. to no avail. i claimed that i could not piss while under scrutiny ( i probably can't, at least not within the first couple hours of observation or until the bladder is nearly burst - but this is irrelevant) and couldn't you please just take my word on this as one honorable person to another. No! finally i insisted: but i DO smoke marijuana whenever it's available, i claimed, and why can't you just take my word on this? finally, he accepted my good word and i was dismissed. screw ' point? never take a drug test, and never take a drug test seriously. screw 'em. and never drive under the influence. whatever the studies say about safety, if you get in a serious wreck, even if you're faultless and some drunk slams into you or a cop car in hot pursuit of a drug addict swerves into you, you could be Forced to take a test and be in for some serious time. wait til you get home.
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Comment #17 posted by QuietCrusader on June 01, 2001 at 18:45:50 PT:
Oh My God...
That was so damn funny!! 
Coming soon: Shit Detoxifier  
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Comment #16 posted by dddd on June 01, 2001 at 17:54:40 PT
Sorry bout the sandwich Kap
I'm delighted to know I'm not the only one who thought it was funny..,,,,I consider the sandwich the sandwich choking event as the highest of compliments......You made my night...LoLdddd
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Comment #15 posted by mayan on June 01, 2001 at 17:45:03 PT
Piss on Em'
 Piss on cops. If they are wearing blue & it turns green it means your piss is yellow. Now that's a piss test!!!
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Comment #14 posted by Tim Stone on June 01, 2001 at 17:25:32 PT
This is actually a very good article.
It looks like the drug testers have pretty much given up the spurious claim that whiz quizes have anything to do with safety or productivity. There have been too many millions of tests in too many industries for too many years, with no measurable inprovement to still pretend. So the testers now fall back on the argument that testing is a "deterrent" to drug use. So now the argument (singular) in favor of drug testing is essentially the same as the argument in favor of the drug war in general, namely, the Chicken Little Argument. We must continue to go through these certain specific, habitual, ritual actions, and if we just continue to do those actions religiously, then the Sky Won't Fall. Does this sound at all familiar? Have you ever known a severe obsessive/compulsive? Someone who goes through constant elaborate habitual rituals to keep the world a manageable place, and to keep his psychic world from caving in on him, which will certainly happen if he doesn't do these rituals obsessively and compulsively? And sometimes, maybe such a person tries to compel others to do the same obsessive rituals, to doubly assure that the Firmament remains unvexed. And if those others refuse to participate in his obsessive/compulsive theatrics, he will punish them with pain, since their failure to comply with his private hallucinations is "irresponsible behavior that will make the sky to fall, thereby endangering everyone. So I must punish the unbelieving, irresponsible disobedients to save us all from a horrible fate. Everything rests on me. I alone am capable of holding up the sky."Here's a goofy Friday night thought: If the drug war were a person rather than an ideology, a panel of psychiatrists would very likely declare it insane and institutionalize it to prevent it from harming others. In case the Chicken Little metaphor is obscure, I'm just suggesting that the justification for the drug war, and its offshoots like drug testing, is increasingly based on ungrounded, irrational fears of what "might" happen if the laws were relaxed in any way. Better Days, Tim Stone
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Comment #13 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 11:58:38 PT
Dammit, 4D!
I was trying to eat my lunch and read at the same time and you nearly made me choke to death from laughter. "Shit test". Jeez. LOL
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Comment #12 posted by dddd on June 01, 2001 at 11:15:14 PT
Fortunatly,,I manage to scrape by being self employed....Myboss has never asked me to take a drug test.I bet supervised drug tests would not be as popular if they wereshit tests....I mean watching someone take a pee is one thing,butif someone had to supervise a shit test,and actually make surethat the shit was from your butt,and not some piece of dogshityou snuck in,,,,,,that would be different......indeedddd
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Comment #11 posted by Kevin Hebert on June 01, 2001 at 10:39:16 PT:
Never take a drug test
It's easy for me to say this, since my current job doesn't test. But I decided I would never want to work at a place where drug testing was a precondition of employment. If everyone refuses to take drug tests, they will become ineffective. It is one of the most direct ways to protest the drug war: never, ever submit to a drug test. There are always other jobs, but once you give up your freedom, it is gone forever.I did take one once, when I was in college, before I had ever tried anything stronger than caffeine. Of course I passed. This was before I realized what the drug war was doing to my country. Now that I know, all my urine will go down the toilet where it belongs, thanks very much. I don't want to work for anyone that interested in my urine. Does anyone?
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Comment #10 posted by Cuzn Buzz on June 01, 2001 at 10:38:58 PT
No Bully-Pulpit
It is a pity we have no "Bully Pulpit" from which to announce a date after which no FREEDOM loving person should submit to a drug test.If we were all to become "refuseniks" after say July 4th that would help to end this drug testing idiocy.
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Comment #9 posted by Rambler on June 01, 2001 at 09:05:46 PT
You're right Doug.What's happening today would have made abest selling science fiction novel in the 50s.How silly,in Americapeople having to pee in cups as a condition of employment.Squadsof heavily armed masked police ramming down peoples doors,becausethey were suspected of breaking the law.The unimaginable vision ofAmerica having a higher percentage of people behind bars than any other country on the face of the earth.  preposterous!
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Comment #8 posted by Doug on June 01, 2001 at 08:44:20 PT:
I don't know which is more frightening,the use of drug tests by organizations, or the fact that so many people say it's okay that they give a sample of their bodily fluid to an employer.The comparison is often made between urine testing and the loyalty oaths of the McCarty Era. In that earlier case, you just had to state that you were not a Communist. Many ethical people refused to say that, when lying was easy to do. By in the present case you can't lie, your body is forced to testify against yourself. What hapened to the rules against self-incrimination?And these tests really do nothing to provide a safer workplace, since they don't detect the most common causs of unsafe behavior. The urine tests are just a further means of dehumanizing the workers, and letting them know that their business really controls their lives, and not just when they are at work.If someone fifty years ago had predicted a society where you were required to urinate in front of someone in order to give a sample before you got a job, or randomly while you had the job, that person would have been considered extremely paranoid. Sometimes reality is more frightening that any fiction.
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Comment #7 posted by dddd on June 01, 2001 at 07:29:20 PT
ras james rsifwh
May JAH continue to shine on you forever.Thank you for illuminating the gates of Zion.......................................................dddd
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Comment #6 posted by ras james rsifwh on June 01, 2001 at 07:15:14 PT
The Great Sign
"The Tree of Life shall bear fruit on both sides of the street each month of the year"...Book of Revelation 22:1&2. Marijuana's fruit is the most nutritious fruit in the world. Last year, the Marijuana Plant bore fruit on both sides of American streets each month of the year in private growrooms...the only plant in the history of man to do this.This undisputed fact now makes Marijuana the Most Sacred Sacrament in the world...for th Son's Prayer to the Father has been answered...."Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven." People realize the City of the Almighty is here on earth now., The gates of Zion are open...enter with I-mind.
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 04:43:50 PT:
"The best...of the rest". 
Back when I was a Federal employee, I'd get up at Oh-dark-thirty every workday, arrive at work a half hour before I actually had to, and got everything ready by opening time. I didn't have to, and I wasn't paid for my extra time; I could have been what many were; a 'minuteman'. someone who shows up at 0659 when the doors open for 'business' at 0700. Unlike all too many so-called civil servants, I went out of my way to help the people who wound up in front of my desk. Many had travelled half-way around the world, but their paperwork wasn't straight, so by regulations I didn't have to let them in the building. I could have just sat on my hands, smiled sweetly up at them and said "I'm sorry, sir, I can't help you" so many of the people who took my place when I went on my all-too-few vacations apparently did.But having served in the military and known first-hand the boiling frustration that 'hurry up and wait' can engender, I made full use of the leeway granted me as a pseudo-supervisor and pushed matters along to a successful conclusion. Those who were supposed to get in, did. Saving the US taxpayers plenty of money being paid to these people who commanded lordly sums for their labors, but were forced to cool their heels in the lobby...while the clock ticked by and hundreds of your taxpayers dollars were wasted in bureaucratic BS.All this...while smoking cannabis for medicinal reasons. every night. For years.What's my point, you ask? Simply this: my nightly cannabis use did not affect my daily job performance in the slightest. I received numerous awards for exceptional performance of duty. Then my supplier was arrested, the fool had kept records, and the FBI visted my workplace. Scratch my Federal career.My replacement was a rank incompetent who had been thrown to my department and dumped on me to deal with because no one had wanted her in their section. She had screwed up one too many times, and been rude to the too many people and they had tired of her laziness, tardiness, foul attitude and lack of initiative. So I had got stuck with her. And she took over my spot when I was forced out.Again, I can hear you asking: what's this got to do with anything? Well, by chasing out talent in this damnable witch-hunt, the Federal civil service is rapidly becoming the 'employer of last resort.' It can't keep the good people it needs. Instead, it winds up with what I overheard one wag say as 'the best of the rest'. Sure, they might be 'drug-free' as far as Uncle is concerned. But if they worked only 5 hours out of 8 because they were off gabbling with their cleaning-lady 'gearl-frens', taking hour long walks, reading Barbara Cartland novels when they should be doing their jobs, and taking much longer time than allowed in feeding their already porcine faces, would you feel like paying for their services?Uncle has only himself to blame for having the most mediocre civil service in the history of any industrialized nation. Because when you set the highest aspiration for employment as being 'drug free'- and overlook everything else - you shouldn't be surprised if the applicants have to brush off the pond scum from their emergence from the shallow end of the gene pool.  
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Comment #4 posted by Lehder on June 01, 2001 at 04:31:45 PT
media vs. medium
Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe things are different there, like on a Harley.
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Comment #3 posted by Lehder on June 01, 2001 at 04:07:06 PT
down under'll let you make your own conclusions, as I would your own decisions. My only comment on these stories is that the word "media" is plural and one of the titles should read "media keep", not "media keeps". I wish this were my only complaint. Have a nice day.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on June 01, 2001 at 00:19:41 PT
subtle tactics
Drug testing serves as yet another ploy to add to the false legitimacyof the war on drugs in general.The phony president select,showcasingthe testing of himself and Dick,is designed to make such things seemnormal,and harmless,,,but in reality,the whole testing thing is absurd,and quite unConstitutional.In doing this,they have further fogged thealready weakly debated,and purposely obscured issue,by making itappear routine.................. My compliments to E Johnson for the excellent comments.............dddd
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Comment #1 posted by E. Johnson on May 31, 2001 at 23:09:38 PT
Drug free sounds like witch free
Drug free -- it's become a mantra.Are they being tested for Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Marlboro, French Roast, Bud Light, Zima or Stoli?Maybe the FBI should have tested Robert Hanssen for Stoli.But seriously, the heightened perception of drugs involved in the desire to be "drug free" -- in a society where nearly everyone survives by using drugs of some kind -- is highly reminiscent of the era of witch hunting in Europe.People had a desire for a certain moral purity in their society and they appointed a class of scapegoats whom they believed threatened that.The feelings that American people have about drugs are out of all proportion to the measured impact of illegal drugs on our society. There is heightened concern about the age of first use of certain drugs, but the average heroin addict is thirty years old, not thirteen. There is heightened concern about marijuana when alcohol kills six times as many young people as all illegal drugs combined.So there's a kind of mass frenzy going on, not that different from the frenzy that led respectable and educated Europeans and Americans from both the secular and religious world in the 16-17th centuries to condone the arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution of suspected witches.Back then people would routinely be examined for marks on their bodies believed to signify the presence of Satan's demonic influence.Today we look in their urine.
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