Minntac Uses Drug Tests to Intimidate Workers

We would like to take this opportunity to publicize U.S. Steel has begun using its drug and alcohol policy/procedure as a mechanism to belittle, harass, intimidate, humiliate, and basically abuse the workfore at our facility, U.S. Steel Minntac. To avoid any confusion we will start by stating that we, as steelworkers, absolutely believe in an alcohol and drug-free workplace and will stand by the company in instituting fair and just (for cause) testing guidelines. In order to be considered a legitimate, for cause test, we feel there needs to be a reasonable basis to believe the employee is affected by drugs or alcohol. Hopefully you will all have a better understanding of what is occurring.

Since the beginning of January the Company has been subjecting our members to drug and alcohol tests for what we feel are anything but legitimate reasons. We have had members tested for reasons such as wanting to file an accident report, reporting an injury, and reporting an accident even if the accident was the result of a faulty piece of equipment. They have even sent individuals off for expressing their discontent with the company while in a fact-finding meeting. We have had instances where an individual has been involved in an accident or was overcome by medically related issues and were subsequently drug tested before receiving any medical attention at all. In almost all cases these unwarranted drug tests could have been averted if a simple investigation of the facts had been performed. Instead the Company chooses to drug test first and investigate later.

We find it ironic that the managers of the plan who are working hand in hand with the employees are not the individuals making the decisions. It is a seven member group who incidentally all work out of the Administrative Building. We have asked ourselves many times how can one of these people, while sitting at homre or in their offices at work, make a judgement call on whether or not one of our members is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It must be a wonderful thing to possess the clairvoyance that these individuals seem to think they have when they subject you to the humiliation and degradation of a drug and alcohol test without just cause. For those of you who have not yet been a victime of this “guilty until proven innocent” mindset, you need to understand what kind of procedure is involved once one or more of the magnificent seven has determined that you obviously are either drunk or on dope and in need of a test.

The first thing that will happen is that the security guard(s) will show up and parade you out of the plant or pit in front of your friends and co-workers, treating you like a common criminal. You will either be taken to the Minntac dispensary or the VRMN at which time you will be required to provide both urine and blood samples. You will be brought back to the plan and allowed to change clothes, while under close survailance. You are then instructed that you are not to set foot on company property until further notice. If you cannot find a ride home the company, on some occasions, may have a cab waiting to give you a ride home. Under no circumstances are you allowed access to your personal vehicle until they say so; essentially impounding your personal vehicle regardless of the burden this may cause to you or your family members. In some cases we have members that live 65-70 miles away. From this point you are off work for three days and are required to call in twice a day to the dispensary to see if the results have come back. If you don’t call when they tell you to the likely result will be discipline. At some point in the next couple of days someone other than you will be allowed to come to the plant and pick up your vehicle. Can you think of a more embarrassing and humiliating experience from start to finish? I think not. Not only have you had to endure being disgraced in the workplace, but your family gets dragged into this sordid affair looking at you like you are some kind of amoral criminal; leading a double life they were unaware of. A lot of the members have only one vehicle to take care of the needs of their family. What are you to do in the interim if an emergency arises? Walk? Run? The person(s) involved in the irrational decision obviously don’t seem to care about the ramifications. In our view what is occuring at our plant is nothing more than corporate harassment and intimidation.

The Union leadership has tried to resolve this issue on several occasions with Department Manager of Labor Relations. His response was that he believes this is an insurance policy, and that we should be happy.

We have thought long and hard as to why the Company insists on creating an environment of fear and intimidation to the same group of people who were instrumental in saving this corporation from bankruptcy four short years ago. In a recent news article published on executive pay, John Surma, U.S. Steel’s CEO, received $15 million in pay and compensation last year. It also stated that these cash rewards can be increased or decreased by how well U.S. Steel keeps up its safety record.

If you knew full well that you would be run through the gamut defined above, would any of you report an accident, injury, or incident? Would you bring forth a safety complaint or report a hazard? Would you dare to disagree with U.S. Steel or its representatives? Lastly would you stand up for your rights as a union member and proud citizen of the United States of America?

[From the floor of Local Union 1938 United Steelworkers District 11, Virginia MN.]

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