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The Boston Globe

Mayor Thomas M. Menino testified at the State House yesterday in favor of statewide legislation requiring random drug and alcohol testing for all public safety personnel and emergency medical technicians.

``We already have drug testing for conductors of garbage trucks, dump trucks, and school buses. Why not a public safety official? Why are they not tested?'' Menino asked the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. The law would ``equal the playing field'' for municipal workers, he said.

Menino declared support for the same legislation when it was proposed last year by Representative Christopher J. Donelan of Orange at the request of one of his constituents. The measure was filed after autopsy reports found that two firefighters who died in a West Roxbury restaurant blaze had drugs or alcohol in their system. The blood-alcohol level of one of the firefighters exceeded the legal driving limit, and the other had traces of cocaine in his blood.

The city is still locked in contract negotiations with its firefighters union, with drug testing the major sticking point.

This year's bill, also sponsored by Donelan, is only a small paragraph and does not specify the parameters of the testing nor how it would be funded, sparking criticism from representatives of police and firefighters unions at the hearing.

``It is unconstitutional what you are doing here,'' said Robert B. McCarthy, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, a union representing more than 11,000 firefighters in the Commonwealth.

McCarthy called the proposal a ``political football,'' giving safety workers a bad image in the press. He said the union was not against drug testing, but thinks firefighters deserve increased wages or benefits in return, something he says needs to be worked out locally in contract negotiations.

He said mandating testing in a state law would violate the rights of public safety workers and would cost the state millions of dollars to implement.

``Drug testing should be bargained at the local level,'' he said.

Boston firefighters undergo random drug and alcohol testing during their first year of employment, but after that they are tested only if they show visible signs of being impaired on the job. Boston police officers approved random testing at any time in their career several years ago. The city's emergency medical technicians approved a contract last year including drug and alcohol testing.

But the current process, in which each city's union negotiates drug testing standards, has created a ``patchwork system'' across the state, said Samuel Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

``A statewide mandate is important to ensure uniformity in all communities,'' Tyler said.

Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company
All Rights Reserved
June 26, 2009

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I'm all for the idea of testing at the beginning of your career, maybe before a promotion, and of course if you show signs or symptoms of being under the influence. But random tests, who is going to pay for it? I'm surely not, and if the city is going to...well then there goes precious tax dollars that I paid into. I'm against the random testing. But then again I'm only 20 and I don't drink/smoke/or do drugs so...
Nothing like taking companies OS for hours for more BS
"The fire chief of the ________Fire Department, said many longtime volunteers, including his assistant fire chief, are refusing to take the drug & alcohol test because they believe they will not pass...."

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it but to me it's Just like requiring physicals for firefighters....it's about setting a standard. Opposing physicals or drug & alcohol tests makes it look like you have something to hide.
The fact is, the City of Boston is attempting to bypass collective bargining and have the state mandate a drug testing policy. Fact is, the union has not nor will they fight a testing policy....we already have one. Infact a 1999 report that the city hired to fix all the BFD problems came back and stated that the policy we have should be used as a model for other departments!!
It's fine with me since I don't drink or smoke. (Dammit I left my cigarettes at the bar!)

Seriously though, it's not a bad idea, as lng as (like damnthing said), it's even across the board. That means Cops, FF's, Medics, paid and volunteer. If we're going to do it then lets do it right! Stay safe!
What the hell lets just through out physicals, and training while we are at it. I for one wold want to know if the person who is supposed to be watching my back is "on something". Wouldnt you? Maybe this will see a decrees in the LODD?? Any thoughts DT?
I also should add that I work for the city maint. dept and we are randomed tested at least 3 times a year.
That is the cities way of doing contract talks! They negotiate in the media, and the media puts there spin on it to sell papers. Local 718 has never stated they want cash for testing, that was the city saying we do!
Great idea Kali, I love it! Especially the drug testing of welfare recipients. If all members of the military are subject to random drug testing, why not all the lazy losers on welfare?

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