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After this publicity, says McNamara, the industry began to respond. The chief says that he subsequently got letters from 85 of the original 100 companies solicited, though nobody will name the firms that responded, nor will anyone say just what level of corporate commitment was promised.
PharmChem Laboratories Inc., a drug testing firm headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., performs 60,000 urine screening tests around the country each month. Principal clients include drug rehabilitation agencies and probation, parole, and prison organization. Following McNamara’s speech, PharmChem sent out a mailing of 165 firms, each with more than 100 employees, that are members of the American Electronics Association (AEA). PharmChem included literature on drug abuse and testing procedures, along with the legal aspects involved in drug testing. “We didn’t get a single response,” says Charles L. Renfroe, PharmChem Spokesman.
AEA recently put on a seminar dealing with drug abuse in the electronics industry, attended by about 60 people. Renfroe says that his firm plans a second mailing on the heels of that meeting and expects better results. Renfroe says that PharmChem is currently conducting some 1,000 screens for corporate customers each month, adding that the potential for expanding this market is substantial. He declines to name clients, but sources say that PharmChem has landed the drug screening program recently instituted by FMC in San Jose. Rumor has it that the plant is checking the urine of new employees for substances that include phenobarbital, morphine, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, and marijuana.
Other electronics firms have not yet decided about the wisdom of drug screening. Phil Peters is vice president of personnel at Memorex Corp. in Santa Clara. He is also a member of the American can Electonics Association’s human resources committee. The AEA represents virtually all of the electronics industry in the valley. “I think that most of us would be taking a look at it [drug screening], but I haven’t heard anything yet,” reports Peterson. “There is nothing on our next agenda about it, but it could still come up during a round-robin discussion.”
What many find strange is just why it took the computer industry so long to consider urine screening to eliminate potenial hires who use unauthorized drugs. Because just too many of them knew how to pass a drug test. The New York Times has been testing urine since 1972, and General Motors also uses similar tests. The Adolph Coors Co. in Golden, Colo., tests its brewery employees, though many say it goes too far with periodic polygraph tests as well. The San Diego Union-Tribune Publishing Co., publisher of two daily newspapers, has a similar screening program that began last year. The new United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., requires preemployment drug screening by urinalysis, and does so under its Toyota-General Motors agreement with an assortment of trade unions.
The Defense Department has been screening the urine of all military personnel–from admiral down to seaman recruit–since early 1982. Navy personnel get three screenings annually. Those in the Army and Air Force are tested less often.
“At the time we started testing, 47% of the sailors in junior grades admitted some kind of drug use within the past 30 days,” says Bob Willette, a civilian consultant with the Navy in Washington, D.C. “Subsequent testing showed that 37% had in fact used drugs within the past 30 days. After two years of testing and drug education, we now have that number down to about 4% positives.”