WASHINGTON — Representatives from two business groups took issue Friday with Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III's support for surveillance in such places as corner taverns of employees suspected of drug use.
"I don't think, except in narrow circumstances, you want to be monitoring locations outside the workplace," said Fred Krebs, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's employee relations policy center.
In a speech Thursday at the chamber, Meese embraced surveillance, in some cases outside the workplace, as one of the approaches to ridding the nation's businesses of drugs.
Lockers, Parking Lots
"Management . . . has to take its responsibility for surveillance of problem areas, such as locker rooms, parking lots, shipping and mail room areas, and even the nearby taverns, if necessary, as a part of controlling this problem," he said.
Meese's comments endorsed an approach favored by a former director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Peter B. Bensinger.
Krebs, while embracing the attorney general's goals of a drug-free workplace, said surveillance at nearby taverns raises "the question of how far your authority goes, the limits of your responsibility. Watching, staking out a tavern, is just a little far afield."
Krebs said he is unaware of any companies that engage in blanket surveillance inside plant gates.
He added that some firms bring in undercover people because they are aware of a drug-abuse problem and "in that context . . . it would be appropriate" to engage in surveillance in parking lots and other remote areas of a plant.
The National-American Wholesale Grocers' Assn. this week announced an aggressive anti-drug campaign calling for education, testing and rehabilitation of drug users in the private work force.
The group's plan, however, "does not consider off-the-work site surveillance" and "does not involve a search of lockers," said Vince Phillips, a spokesman for the organization. The association represents about 300,000 grocers who employ more than 3 million supermarket workers.