This is an excerpt of a story I wrote July 20 for Bridge Magazine.

 

By Chad Selweski

A Macomb County factory owner sees a chance to increase production at his metal-stamping plant. He puts out a call for job applicants and dozens respond.

About half are rejected. Why? They cannot pass a basic pre-employment drug test.

A major manufacturing facility in Detroit furloughs workers during a downturn. When 100 of the workers are called back several months later, every last one of them fails the company’s drug screening, mostly for marijuana.

In Traverse City, an addiction treatment center surveys 30 companies across the region and finds only 1-in-4 conduct drug tests. The reason: They fear the results would require them to reject or fire the workers they desperately need.

“More often than not, we are finding that employers are not testing because of that problem,” said Chris Hindbaugh, executive director of Addiction Treatment Services. “They’d rather not know. And that’s dangerous.”

Across Michigan, employers say they can’t fill job openings because too many people can’t pass a drug test. Shortages are particularly acute in manufacturing, construction,  warehousing or shipping companies, which routinely impose pre-employment drug screening for workers who operate heavy machinery or heavy-haul trucks.

In response to worker shortages, some companies are either not testing workers or skirting the results. One example is in the service industries, from retail to restaurants, because business owners often don’t view accidents as a serious issue. Others are scaling back by only testing for illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, but not for abuse of prescription medicines such as opioids.

“That’s why we don’t drug test,” an executive at a Macomb County mold-making manufacturer told Bridge. “Because if we did, we’d have no employees.”

Continue reading here.

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