I was speaking at St. Mark's this week in Dorchester and proceeding me were members of the local 718 Firefighters Union. They are going around to community groups presenting their side of the contract talks.
There were a number of heated comments from the crowd about drug testing and fire fighters being in shape. The union said that they were open to a drug testing program but (to me) was unclear about how that should or would be implemented. They did explain that they currently have a program where if someone suspects a fellow firefighter may have a substance abuse issue that they can be reported to superiors and required to take a drug test. They said that about 250 of the 1300 firefighters were tested last year.
They also explained why they need a 'well-fitness' program. As I understand it, the firefighters want a stipend to stay in shape and see a doctor once a year. This brought a sharp response from one woman from the crowd who talked about "self respect", and how their job description should include being in shape to be able to climb ladders and get into buildings and they shouldn't need to be paid extra to do their job.
The firefighters union took extra time and answered all questions. They received hearty thanks from the crowd for the difficult job that they do, but some skeptical banter about their contract posturing.