Urinalysis: Pissing It All Away

The dream of every crude economist is to be able to account for labor (humans) as methodically as machines, raw materials, overhead, etc.

Of course, it rarely works that way. Unlike machines, humans have annoying interests extraneous to their roles as “capital.” Humans think for themselves—even the dumb ones. Humans fight back.

In the never-ending struggle to hammer human-round-pegs into corporate- square-holes, meet the…

Piss Police

“Urinalysis” involves performing arcane alchemical rites over bottles of employee urine. Consider it a peek through the ol’ urinary tract keyhole into workers’ private lives.

In Canada, the High Priests of Urinal Augury lurk in the shadowy towers of the Toronto Dominion Bank. Last August, the bank was given the green light by the Human Rights Tribunal to force new employees to tinkle into tumblers. (eyeNET could find no evidence supporting the rumor TD sponsors the net’s National Golden Shower Special Interest Group (gshowerm@aol.com).)

TD’s “official” logic runs thusly: People who “do drugs” (drugs: a generic term indicating the person using it actually knows nothing about “drugs”) are a higher risk in job performance. Of course, there’s no proof of this—welllll, except for alcohol, which is notorious for decreasing work performance, but TD isn’t testing for booze.

“Don’t be fooled, this War On Drugs is part of a political agenda,” says Chris Conrad, director of the L.A.-based Family Council on Drug Awareness. I spoke with Conrad when he was in Toronto for a meeting of the Canadian Hemp Association (cha@io.org). “When you test people for only some drugs, you are testing people for lifestyle.”

In the U.S., piss tests are common. “One of the tragedies is that U.S. labor unions capitulated,” Conrad says. “In the ’80s, labor was unified against it, then in the early ’90s caved in. Now we have new generations of young adults entering the labor force who assume they have to be urine-tested to get jobs. We hope to shake that out of their heads and make them realize the U.S. is the only country in the world that does this on a truly national scale.”

Why do so many U.S. companies piss-test? Conrad says that in the Reagan years, Carlton Turner did studies for the National Institute of Drug Abuse on drugs in the work place.

“Turner didn’t find much about the effects of drugs in the work place, but he did discover someone had invented a way to test for THC in urine. Turner recognized it could be a gold mine. The Reagan administration, at Turner’s bidding, agreed to put urinalysis requirements in the government contract process.”

The U.S. government effectively subsidized the pee-test industry. (Note: In ‘91, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported labs routinely come up with false positives in piss tests.)

“The European Community has totally banned it,” Conrad says. “In fact, in Europe there are more countries where you can legally smoke marijuana in your home than where companies can legally urine-test.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has asked the Federal Court of Canada to review the tribunal decision legitimizing TD urine-mongers. Canadian Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips dubbed TD’s policy “a major step in the intrusion of privacy” of workers. The Ontario Information and Privacy Commission recommends a legislative ban against random pee-tests. They all say workers should be measured by job performance, not off-hours, recreational drug use.

Tracking Pee Freaks

“The Great Usenet Piss List” is a huge compilation of which U.S. companies piss test (e.g., Intel, Motorola) and which refuse (e.g., Apple, Microsoft). Visit http://rafferty.com/~piss/. Or send email to piss@rafferty.com with the word “send” in the subject line and you’ll be auto-forwarded the list.

It’s also posted monthly by the Piss List maintainer, Colin Rafferty (piss@rafferty.com). If you have first-hand experience with piss tests from a company, add its name to the list. Anonymity is guaranteed.

Rafferty writes: “This list exists as a one-man crusade (supported by a cast of thousands) against the current government-sponsored terrorism sometimes called the Drug War […] This crusade is about constitutional protections, individual privacy and freedom. It is not an advocacy of the abuse of any mind-altering substance.”

You’re Hired: Now, Urinate

TD denies urine testing invades an employee’s privacy. “We have taken great measures to ensure the employee’s privacy is maintained,” TD spokesperson Meredith Wiens told eyeNET. “The tests are between the health professional and the employee only. Results don’t go to the employee’s manager, they remain with the health professionals—doctors and nurses who have their own code of confidentiality.”

And TD stresses it only tests new employees—i.e., those most vulnerable and likely to comply. And if a new employee refuses to pee for TD? “That’s perfectly fine,” Wiens says. “We respect that decision.” The employee’s contract is terminated.

TD tests for opiates, cocaine and marijuana. eyeNET asked Wiens if she believes marijuana belongs on the same plateau as coke and smack.

“Yes. We just don’t want any drug users.”

What About Alcohol?

She corrects herself. “We don’t want any illegal drug users.”

Canadian marijuana advocates say Wiens’ response proves this isn’t a workplace/health issue but rather a political/subculture issue. It’s a war on lifestyle, not drug use.

Many advocates ask the public to bank anywhere but TD. Others, however, think the public should help the green-logo bank. Suggests HEMP B.C.’s Marc Emery, “Since it’s only a matter of time ’til the TD wants a poo sample, why not leave one on their doorstep in advance?”

Posted by A. Shapiro
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