WILLIAMSPORT — Governor Tom Corbett was recently asked about why the state’s unemployment rate remains so high.
His response? Because workers are too.
On a radio program Monday, Governor Corbett was asked why the state’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average.
Corbett’s responded that companies need workers with more training and workers who can pass a drug test.
It was only part of Governor Tom Corbett’s answer as to why the state’s unemployment rate is relatively high.
“There are many employers that say, ‘We’re looking for people, but can’t find anyone who has passed a drug test.” That’s a serious concern,” said Corbett on Radio PA.
It was that part of Corbett’s answer that got the most criticism.
A front page headline in the Philadelphia Daily News read “Big Bong Theory,” all because the governor was relying on what employers told him about problems they have filling open positions.
“Most people I’ve talked to that are out of jobs, that’s not their priority. The priority is there are no jobs to go to. That’s the biggest thing,” said Timothy Packer of Williamsport.
At the PA Career Link office in Williamsport there were a number of people in search of a job.
The governor’s comments do not sit well with some.
“I think there’s a lot of people out here looking for work, just can’t find it,” said Herbert Brown who has been searching for work for three months.
“He’s going to have a hard time next election explaining why he’d call these people druggies,” added Packer.
Nowadays there are quite a few companies affiliated with the natural gas industry that require drug testing before they hire people for employment. But whether or not there’s a significant number of people who apply and fail the test or choose not to take it, people who administer those tests said it’s a small, small percentage.
“It’s typically about 10% that would test positive,” said Sherry Bender of Affiniton, LLC.
Affiniton in Williamsport carries out drug tests for potential employees, and the folks there believe there are other reasons, not drug test results, that disqualify workers.
But as soon as Corbett’s comments were questioned, the PA Chamber of Commerce came to his side.
“We frequently hear from member companies that this is absolutely a problem for them. It is especially an issue for industries that have a zero tolerance policy on drug and alcohol use,” said Gene Barr, PA Chamber President.
A governor’s office spokesperson said the comment is being taken out of context and is being used for political benefit.
Still, no one the governor’s office referred us to was able to back up his statements with any facts or figures, only what they called “anecdotes” from industry types.