State firefighters rallied at the State House yesterday, with a focus on the ongoing dispute between the City of Boston and the Fire Uniuon over mandatory drug testing. From the Globe:
Boston firefighters have been criticized in recent months for resisting mandatory drug tests, after autopsy results indicated that one of two firefighters who died in a West Roxbury restaurant fire last August was under the influence of alcohol and that the other had used cocaine. Since then, two other firefighters have been arrested on drug charges.
The rhetoric was hot, and the news media castigated:
Most major US cities require mandatory drug and alcohol testing for firefighters. Yesterday’s speeches by union leaders were peppered with fierce criticism of city officials and the news media. The crowd booed at the mention of The Boston Globe, and McCarthy blasted articles in Boston and Commonwealth magazines. The sharpest rhetoric was saved for the Boston Herald, which ran an editorial Monday saying it was time to “start yanking back” on the “ludicrously long leash” given to the city union during contract negotiations.
“We’re not dogs,” McCarthy said. “. . . We won’t be treated like dogs.”
Mayor Menino responded:
Dorothy Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said the accusations that City Hall is feeding bogus stories to the media are “just another tactic by Local 718 to divert attention away from the real issue of drug and alcohol testing and reforms within the department.”
Will the firefighters engender any public sympathy, or will the negative press continue?
I see nothing wrong with requiring mandatory drug testing for Fire Fighters and for Police for that matter. Both groups are entrusted with the public’s safety. If they are not cleared headed they are endangering the very people they are hired to serve.