brewery workers fight drug test
Claim method is unproven
-- Anheuser-Busch brewery workers are fighting a drug test imposed recently
that is designed to detect drug use up to three months prior.
new test relies on a lock of hair, rather than a urine sample, which
has led Teamsters Local 102 to file a civil rights lawsuit and one worker
to shave all of his body hair. Testers used a fingernail clipping for
his test instead the union said.
union, representing 500 brewers, machinists and clerks at the Newark
brewery, says the test is unreliable and violates privacy rights.
are not going to accept this lying down," Jack Riley, Local 102
secretary-treasurer and chief executive officer, told The Star-Ledger
of Newark. So far, his local is the only one of 16 Teamster locals around
country to challenge the hair testing, but he said he hopes to inspire
St. Louis-based brewer of Budweiser and other brands maintains hair
testing is accurate and fair.
absolutely convinced about the reliability of hair testing," said
Eric M. Schmitz, Anheuser-Busch vice president for labor relations.
been implementing hair testing for Teamster workers at its 12 breweries
since February, although managers and nonunion workers have been subject
to the tests for a decade, Schmitz said Thursday.
union sued in March in state Superior Court. The company sought to have
the case transferred to federal court, but a federal judge last week
denied the bid.
world's largest brewer put in the new test as part of a contract it
imposed on its 8,000 Teamsters workers last year amid an impasse in
negotiations. Prior to that, each Teamster had one urine test during
each of two prior contracts, 1991-94 and 1994-98, Schmitz said.
is important because brewery employees work with heavy machinery and
hot liquids, he said. Workers who refuse to take the test are fired.
urine tests reveal the presence of drugs ingested from 18 hours to three
days before the samples were taken, they are still used after accidents
and upon "reasonable suspicion," Schmitz said.
hair tests show drug use up to 90 days before the test, he said.
hair tests can detect use of cocaine, marijuana, opiates such as heroin,
methamphetamine and PCP, according to Psychemedics Corp. of Cambridge,
Mass., which performs the tests for Anheuser-Busch.
more than 1,500 corporate clients include police departments, Federal
Reserve banks, hospitals and universities.
in Atlantic City and Las Vegas also use hair tests.
more than 90 percent of firms that test for illegal drugs still rely
on urine tests, according to the American Management Association.
it looks farther back, hair testing has detected more drug use than
urine tests at Anheuser-Busch, Schmitz said, but he declined to give
who test positive for drugs are given unpaid leave and can be reinstated
after completing an employee assistance program and testing clean.
than a handful of employees have been discharged for failing to complete
an employee assistance program" of some 8,000 Teamsters and 2,000
craft workers around the nation, Schmitz said.
officials said at least two workers in Newark were discharged after
positive drug tests since February.
Newark Teamster, machinist Frederick Wedekin, told the newspaper he
felt "violated" when a lock was cut taken recently for testing.
never had anybody cut my hair without my permission unless it was my
mother and father when I was a young kid," said Wedekin, 53, of
102 contends hair testing is unproven and more intrusive than urine
tests. It also argues that hair testing is discriminatory, citing experts
who believe compounds left in hair by drugs are more likely to be detected
in dark or coarse hair, and therefore among blacks.
left for the union leader and its lawyer were not immediately returned
This article originally appeared in Modern
Brewery Age, May 17, 1999.
Copyright 1999, Business Journals, Inc.