Why A State Construction Group Gave Legislators a Drug Test

The West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council got more than two dozen state legislators to voluntarily take a drug test—all while making the point that the tests have been a major success for the contracting industry.

Sometimes, when your organization is trying to make a policy argument, it’s important to use a real-world example to drive the point home.

Which explains why the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council went to the state’s capitol this week and coordinated drug tests on legislators who agreed to take part.

The idea behind the initiative? To remove the stigma behind drug tests, to highlight their effectiveness, and to show that there are plenty of people in the state who can do construction work. The trade council knows this firsthand, as it’s helped to encourage the use of drug tests for contractors for the past two decades.

“We have a vast pool of highly-trained, skilled, and sober West Virginians, but too often workers are being imported from out-of-state to take local jobs,” Chuck Parker, the business manager of Operating Engineers Local 132 said in a release on the Council’s Facebook page. “Companies who claim they can’t find drug-free workers in the construction industry are not looking in the right place or are simply wanting skilled labor for cheap.”

The council told WVVA that, among contractors in the state, there was a drug-use problem rate of 2 percent—a number well below the 15 percent seen nationally.

The issue of drug testing is a current point of discussion in Charleston, where two proposed bills that would mandate drug testing for state legislators—one in the state House, one in the Senate—have been introduced.

Some legislators who took part in the endeavor, which was managed by a third-party partner of the council, noted that the campaign highlighted a way to better understand what the state’s workers have to go through to work.

“We pass laws that require people to take drug tests to maintain employment, and I think it’s only right that legislators do the same thing and that we practice what we preach, that we put our money where our mouth is, and we actually show that we take drug tests and we can pass them,” state Senator Bill Ihlenfeld told WVVA.

Per The Intelligencer, a newspaper in the city of Wheeling, 31 of the state’s 134 legislative members participated in the testing, which took place over a four-hour period on Wednesday.

(DWGrafix/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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