Congress Approves Drug Testing of America’s Unemployed

Press Release February 16, 2012
Media Contact

Bill Piper 202-669-6430 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215</p>

WASHINGTON, DC—Congress today approved a deal which will broadly expand drug testing. As part of the deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, Democrats caved in to Republican demands to allow states to drug test people applying for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

The deal, which President Obama will sign, allows states to drug test UI benefit claimants who might apply to work for employers with a drug testing policy. The new policy amounts to a subsidized “prescreen,” at taxpayer expense, for employers who would eventually have done their own tests. The policy actually encourages employers to just announce that they will drug test, without actually paying to do it, because state unemployment bureaucracies will now do that for them.

This policy is strongly skewed toward lower-wage jobs, as “white-collar” employers are far less likely to humiliate job applicants in this way. This policy broadly expands and subsidizes drug testing in a way that may be difficult to reverse for many years, if ever.

Bill Piper, director of National Affairs, gave the following statement:

“This policy is a terrible one-two punch to the gut for thousands of struggling Americans. Congress has paired a generous taxpayer subsidy for corporations that drug test with a slap in the face for those struggling to find work, feed their families and keep their homes. The American people have a right to be upset over being forced to subsidize the violation of their civil liberties, when they try to access a program that they pay for with every paycheck. Drug testing is expensive and ineffective, and distracts from evidence-based policies that actually reduce the problems associated with drug use and misuse.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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