On the general issue of random drug testing, Gibbons says, "We believe the guidelines are clear." That opinion is echoed by Health System Minnesota spokeswoman Sara Goetz: "[We] do these collections based on the guidelines given to them by the federal Department of Transportation." She notes that company testers perform similar services for 600 local clients.
Bob Rossman, president and business agent for ATU Local 1005, declines to address the matter while it's in the grievance process. But he will say that he's been hearing member complaints about the conduct of what he calls the "collection agency"--Pathways--which since August has been in charge of administering the tests. "We think the vendor is overzealous in how they do things," says Rossman, who charges that testers are in the habit of quoting nonexistent Federal Transit Administration regulations, such as telling subjects they're not allowed to read while waiting to produce a sample. "There is no regulation like that," he adds--nothing on the law books that would bar testees from bringing books along with them. Rossman addressed the issue in a recent union newsletter, writing that he raised the question of reading materials with a federal staffer at a recent workshop: "The FTA official laughed and said there are no such regulations prohibiting reading."
The tinkle wrinkle: Veteran driver Joe Lester kept his book and lost his job
Perhaps the strangest twist in Lester's case is that it's not about urine or drugs, but literature. Lester, who says he has been battling depression since his dismissal, reiterates that his true purpose amid all the contention is to put an end to what he sees as an unwarranted procedure that puts workers' privacy in jeopardy. "Anyone that does our job under the influence should be horse-whipped and run off the property forever," he remarks sternly. "But what a person does on their own time is pretty much their own business."