Local union urging City of Columbia to stop drug testing as part of negotiations


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A local union is fighting to end pre-employment drug testing in the City of Columbia as part of its contract negotiations before the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. 

LiUNA Local 995 is urging the city to stop drug testing in part of its efforts to increase wages, adjust the grievance processes, provide better working conditions and get additional benefits for union employees during its contract negotiations, according to the union.  

City policy requires people to pass a five-panel drug test that looks for traces of amphetamines, opioids, cannabinoids, cocaine and phencyclidine. The union is looking to end the testing completely except for positions that require a commercial driver’s license, as those drug tests are mandated by the federal government. 

Currently any prospective employee who fails the mandatory pre-employment drug test has to wait a minimum of five years before reapplying for any city job again. Because of this, some workers have opted to work through a temporary employment agency that does not require a drug test.

“People can do work for the city of Columbia without being able to pass a drug test,” Andrew Hutchinson, a Laborers’ Local 955 representative said. “What they do is they work for a temporary agency where they do not receive benefits and they make lower wages than other people doing the exact same work while corporations make tons of money off these workers.”

“We want to get rid of pre employment drug testing so we can get rid of the use of temp labor which is an exploratory practice at the city of Columbia and remove barriers to gainful employment,” Hutchinson added.

Some Missouri local governments, such as the town of Nixa, have banned city employees from using marijuana, arguing that lenient marijuana policies can threaten federal funding.

Weed has exploded in popularity since it was legalized in February, generating over $100 million in the first month of sales. More and more Missourians use the drug, adding to a growing trend in the United States. The Center For the Advancement of Health reported that 52% of Americans consumed some form of marijuana by the end of 2022. 

The THC found in marijuana can be detected by drug tests anywhere from three to 30 days after a person first consumed the drug. Mid-Missouri Drug Testing Collections says there are multiple factors involved in how long THC is detectable in a person, such as how frequently a person uses the drug and what their body fat is. Because of this, these tests are not always the best indicator of whether a person is high or abusing drugs. 

Daniel Viets, a criminal defense and marijuana lawyer, says the drug should be treated like alcohol or tobacco in the state, especially since it is sometimes used for medical purposes.

“Under the amendments to Article 14 passed by the voters of Missouri last November there is no basis whatsoever for treating, especially medical marijuana users who use it off the job, any differently than city employees who use alcohol or tobacco off the job.”

Many Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks and Target have already gotten rid of their pre-employment drug testing. Now that marijuana is legalized in Missouri, LiUNA Local 995 is comparing the drug to alcohol. 

A LiUNA spokesman says the city and union will enter negotiations Monday.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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