Friday, January 05, 2007


Open Letter to Anastasio about Random Drug Testing

Dear Mike:

My first reaction upon reading the Lab's proposed drug policy was very
negative, because it sets up an adversarial relationship of management
AGAINST workers, rather than one of cooperative teamwork of management
AND workers. With regard to drug abuse, the approach of your new
management team in these difficult times should be along the same lines
as your stated approach to safety and security, namely, fostering a
spirit of teamwork, cooperation, and buy-in to the general program by

Former Director G. Peter Nanos said golden words about building mutual
confidence between management and workers in both safety and security,
but in practice, his short term as Director was marked by heavy-handed
intimidation and fear, from which the Lab has still not fully recovered
after 2-1/2 years. Nanos was encouraged in his harsh military approach
by NNSA's chief, Linton Brooks. Now that Ambassador Brooks has been
relieved from command of NNSA by Energy Secretary Bodman, there is a
new window of opportunity to establish a better footing, possibly even
TRUST, in the relationship between management and workers at Los
Alamos. And I would encourage you to consider taking a major step in
that direction by eliminating random drug testing from the proposed new
drug policy.

It is very clear that Congress wants the Lab to deal with ongoing
safety and security lapses, though they don't seem to realize, nor does
the general public, that zero occurrences of accidents or security
violations are impossible to achieve, at least by us human beings, even
under the very best of safety and security programs. Keeping the
nation's defense secrets safe from foreign espionage and the workplace
as free from accidents as humanly possible both require attention to
the frailties inherent in human behavior, most importantly in the area
of addictive behavior. The addictions that are most problematic are
easy to identify, in rough order of occurrence: sex, alcohol, gambling,
prescription drugs (anti-depressants and painkillers), cocaine,
methamphetamine, and heroin. (I've left out two quite addictive drugs,
tobacco and caffeine, but they really don't pose serious problems in
workplace safety or national security.) In addition to long-term health
problems, each of these addictions can have deleterious effects on a
worker's family life, put fellow workers at risk of increased
accidents, and for Q-cleared workers in particular, make workers prone
to blackmail. Moreover, the support of addictive habits can cause grave
financial difficulties. Blackmail and financial reward are two of the
most effective tools of foreign espionage in prying loose or buying

What is management to do about these problems? Clearly, random drug
tests could not even discover many of these more serious addictive
problems. In the classified arena, there are extensive periodic
background checks before a Q-clearance is granted. In addition, the
principal tool that conscientious managers have is their eyes and ears,
namely, keeping good lines of communication with the workers directly
under them. An incident of inebriation on the job obviously has to
trigger the threshold of probable cause for a drug test; however,
randomly testing the general Lab populace, particularly those who do
not handle dangerous materials or operate dangerous equipment, is
completely uncalled for.

But the main difficulty with random drug tests is the adversarial
atmosphere they bring down on the Lab, and the side effects of
demoralization, humiliation, and reduced productivity, not to mention
the sheer cost of administering them. Moreover, if a worker is
immediately put onto a Performance Action Track, based on a positive
outcome of a drug test, and the "positive" is actually an error, there
is almost no way to undo the disgrace and disruption to the worker's
career. Rather than attaching permanent blame to addictive behavior,
management ought to realize that they can help a worker out of the hole
they've dug for themselves, and still reap years of productivity for
the Lab and the nation. If a positive program of help for the addict
fails, well, at least the Lab can say it did the best it could.

The bottom line is: I encourage you, as the new Lab Director, to choose
teamwork over an "us versus them: managers against workers" atmosphere
for Los Alamos, and abandon the random drug tests.

Respectfully submitted,

-Brad Lee Holian
Lab Associate, X-Division

The point on sexual addiction Holian makes is well taken. How many LANL workers are having secret affairs, cheating on their spouses and, thus, potentially opening themselves up to blackmail! It's probably a much, much higher number than those who are currently using illegal drugs.

Pull out your penis, men. It's time to add a new test to the LANL suite -- one that is even more critical than drug testing. Careful where you stick it or you may get fired.

Perhaps we should consider neutering all male LANL workers, just to be on the safe side for US national security. Then, again, perhaps most of the male work force at LANL have already been neutered, at least in a symbolic sense.

I hear Livermore doesn't drug test. It is your option to leave. Drug testing is not the biggest concern at LANL.
So...let's see if I understand you. You're saying that LLNL doesn't drug test---then WHY the !@#$% should LANL?
It's "my option to leave"? What the !@#$% does THAT mean? I could have "left" a long time ago.
You just aren't making a great deal of sense, Al-Anon 11:53. And I don't think you give a $hit about LANL.
For all of you fools down there that think LLNL doesn't drug test you had better ask someone that works in building 132. They get tested randomly and without notice all of the time. Drug testing is here to stay and expect more of it to come. The worker have proven that they are not trustworthy and now will pay for their stupidity. Have a good day and keep you nose clean and you don't have anything to worry about. Do what you are not supposed to, and be prepared to find a new job, if you can.
Teamwork? Between management and workers? Duh. That's why there are unions. There is only an adversarial relationship between management and workers. The difference with a union is the workers are on an equal plane with management. LANL employees are not so bright after all. maybe that is why there is so much trouble. If the employees would organize things would change. Blogging will never change a thing a LANL. A picket sign will. Ask the guards. Things changed for them in 1989.
Dear "1/06/2007 8:44 PM":

Could you spell out for us just what opportunities there are for union representation, now that we are no longer candidates for a UC-type union of "concerned scientists," but rather under the thumb of an actual corporation? Could a new union at LANL actually have some serious power? (Maybe we don't want to go so far as the Teamsters Union, but ...)

-Concerned citizen, and LANS employee
Brad, there is a difference between Performance Action Track and Investigatory Leave. PAT keeps the employee at work and requires the manager to set specific criteria for the person to keep their job. If you complete the requirements, it pretty much goes away. Mostly your coworkers won't even know it's going on.

Investigatory Leave means the person's badge gets pulled and they are barred from Lab property. Supposedly this is because their presence on Lab property would hinder an investigation of something they supposedly did that was a violation of Lab policy or endangered a coworker. Usually they will pull your Cryptocard and make you return any offsite property such as a laptop, so you can't even keep up with email while you're offsite. You are not allowed to tell anyone why you are being investigated (because it would taint the investigation). In short, you are cut off from your job, your coworkers, and in a town like Los Alamos, you can't even talk to your friends if they work at the Lab. It is very isolating and very punitive.

The new substance abuse policy requires the manager to pull the employee's badge if there is a positive test result. They are supposed to consult with HR Employee Relations (now there's a misnomer) to determine whether IL is necessary, but if the badge has already been pulled it's hard to see what other options exist. Other than being fired outright.
Don't want to go as far as a "Teamsters type union"? That's what a union is. ASK UPS. Remeber the strike in '97? UPS caved and the Teamsters members benefitted. That's what is needed. A union recognized under the Natinal Labor Relations Act. A federal law that LANS would have to follow.
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