I've attended a number of meetings recently that focused on local economic growth that included educators and employers. Usually these type of meetings are a little hard on me as staying awake is a problem and dozing off is embarrassing. Not so with these.
Employers are saying they are having a difficult time filling positions at their firms.
I've often written about the great job Alpena Community College is doing with training people, whether it be the World Center for Concrete Technology or the Lineman Training Center. I've written about the amount of cash local financial institutions have to loan. This column has enumerated the natural resources that are abundant in our region. The unemployment levels have been topics ad nauseam. In the discussions at these economic growth meetings those items aren't mentioned much.
What I have learned at these meetings is the main impediment to hiring people in Northeast Michigan is that applicants can't pass the drug tests. Hey dude, perhaps these folks should move to Colorado where marijuana is legal.
One prominent employer reported a 75 percent failure rate among a group of folks who were hired and then tested. I bet that firm now tests before hiring. Hiring folks who are in violation of company policies and having to discharge them immediately after hiring is nothing but a hassle for the employers. A much smoother approach is to test first and then decide whether or not to hire. Of course, the employers are not hiring those who test positive on drug usage.
At our company, we test randomly and periodically for drugs. As with most employers, the outcome with us for a positive test is immediate dismissal. The message is pretty clear: Zero tolerance here. Hey, guys, it's not just us. Virtually no industrial job in our area is not drug tested.
Personally, I am enough of a libertarian to wish to give you all of the rights you can stand. I just want you to be responsible enough to take care of your life in such a way that you don't infringe upon any of my rights. In other words, your freedom ends where mine begins. Inasmuch as I'm busy looking after my life, I don't wish to take care of your life. I don't feel that your life is my business. As a consequence, I'm not happy with the "nanny state."
If Colorado wants to have folks able to smoke dope, then I'm fine with it. If employers don't want to hire folks who do drugs, then I'm OK with that. However, if the State of Michigan wants me to subsidize druggies on unemployment through my payroll deductions, I object. I want Michigan Works to drug test citizens on unemployment and to not pay benefits to those who test positive.
If applicants for unemployment benefits test positive for drugs, then they have made a choice to be unemployed. I want to help anyone who is actually looking for work but if someone has chosen to have a lifestyle that renders themselves unemployable by drug usage, then I don't want to help with unemployment benefits.
Perhaps our state legislature could fund pre-unemployment testing to help qualify people for benefits. After all, if a person structures their life to be unemployable, then are they unemployed or did they just decide not to work?