ustxtxb_obs_1986_11_07_50_00023-00000_000.pdf

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IF YOU’VE BEEN marooned on a desert island for the last few months, you may be surprised to learn that the nation has a new Number One national emergency. Forget the deficit, the trade gap, nuclear annihilation these are yesterday’s worries. Today the evils of coke, smack and weed demand your outrage. And, of course, be prepared to give up some of your constitutional freedoms when you enlist as a soldier in the “war on drugs.” The current wave of drug hysteria Gana LaMarche is Executive Director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union: began to mount in mid-summer, and seems to have been stimulated by two events: the cocaine-related .death of basketball star Len Bias and press reports that “crack,” a particularly potent variant of cocaine, had hit the streets of our major cities. After the press re-discovered the drug problem, it didn’t take long for virtually every politician in America, from Ronald Reagan to the members of the Socorro, Texas, school board, to come up with quick fixes for the drug problem. The leading gimmick at present is’ the drug test. Reagan and his organized crime commission would like to test the urine of virtually every American worker; and each day’s newspaper brings reports of a new drug testing program. Beaumont wants to test 10,000 students and 2,400 teachers. Denton, Austin, Pflugerville, San Angelo and other communities plan to test students engaged in extracurricular activities. Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio want to test public employees. General Dynamics, LTV, American Airlines, Southwestern Bell, EDS and Texas Instruments are among the 30 percent of Fortune 500 companies that are testing their workers for drugs. In the most regrettable submission to drug hysteria, Local 450 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, based in Beaumont, became the first union in the country to require its members to submit Just so you don’t think only the rankand-file are subject to the gross indignities of surrendering their bodily fluids, President Reagan and Vice-President Drugs and Civil Liberties By Gara LaMarche Port Arthur IN AN unprecedented move, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 450 recently instituted a program requiring its members to consent and submit to drug testing. Local 450 is a major building and construction trades local, covering 93 counties in East and South Texas, including the areas of Houston, Beaumont, San Antonio and Austin; it has about 2,800 members. Robert Kight, president and business manager of Local 450, was quick to say the drug testing program was not a knee-jerk reaction to the current anti-drug movement sweeping the country. He also vehemently denied the program was a “desperation-type movement” by members of the plagued Local, where membership has dropped from 5,500 in 1979 to the present 2,800 and in which unemployment among the members runs about 50 percent. There were three reasons for Glenda Pettit-Spivey covers business and labor for the Port Arthur News. instituting the drug testing, according to Kight. “First, we think the financial benefits of the program will help the competitive posture of contractors and the construction industry in general,” he said. “Second, we think that by helping our employers, Local 450 will in turn improve job opportunities for our operating engineers. Third, drug use in the workplace is a national problem of critical proportions, with huge destructive consequences not only in terms of money, but also in terms of human lives and well-being.” In the simplest of terms, “any member who wants to work must consent to take a test if the employer so requests,” Kight said. The drug testing guidelines adopted by the union state, in part, that at any time following employment regardless of the drug test history of an operator a contractor or his authorized representative may, upon establishing probable cause, require that an operator undergo drug testing. The expense of the first drug test will be undertaken by the contractor requesting the test. In the event an operator fails the first test and wants a second one, the expense of the second test will be borne by the contractor only if the operator passes otherwise the worker pays. Three failures will result in the operator being removed from the referral list until he has undergone a union-approved counseling and rehabilitation program. In addition, post referral testing may be required if a Local 450 member “is involved in any serious accident or is reasonably suspected of being intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics,” the drug testing guideline states. Although Kight said alcohol testing will be done on “probable cause,” he also conceded that if employers requested random testing for drugs or alcohol, members who refused would be dropped from the referral list. And although the guideline adopted by the union states drug testing will be done by urinalysis, Kight said the method of testing for either drugs or alcohol would be worked out with the individual contractor. Local members were not entirely happy to adopt the drug testing program, Kight conceded. “It took two or three meetings to make them aware,” he said, and at least two meetings were held in each district to discuss the topic. According to Kight, members were invited to participate in an open discussion and were then given the opportunity to vote on the issue. Of the 2,800 members, “750 or 800 of our Union Backs Drug Testing By Glenda Pettit-Spivey THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23