Anstandig notes that the Employee Assistance Program had been available to the workers for years. He says PNI management made a point of reminding workers that the program was available to them before MarTech completed its investigation. Moreover, he says, possession or sale of drugs does not necessarily constitute use, and the rehab program is designed for users only.

During the interrogations, the workers say, they were shown a "rat sheet"--a list of fellow employees--and asked to identify the ones they knew had used or sold drugs. The workers say that although drug use was common, there was no "drug ring" operating in the mailroom. "Everything was casual, and it was no big thing," one worker says.

"Let me put it this way," another says. "Nobody made any money selling drugs."

The workers say a nubile undercover operative known as Amanda pressured workers for any drug she could get her hands on. "Amanda would continually badger you all day long for crystal, pot and coke, and she was an attractive girl, and, naturally, guys would try to get close to her," one worker says.

One attorney who is familiar with labor law says that while PNI's and MarTech's tactics might be viewed as heavy-handed, it's unlikely that any crimes were committed against workers--unless they were detained against their will during interrogations.

"If you coerce someone, you might open yourself up to civil liability, but it's not a crime to lie to somebody," the attorney says.

The wife of one fired worker believes the episode is a crime. She says her husband and the others understand they broke rules, but that the mailers had been fiercely loyal to PNI, and in return, have been betrayed. Casual drug use had never been grounds for dismissal in the past--even for PNI managers, she says. She and the fired workers say treatment of PNI workers has deteriorated markedly in recent years.

"They lied to these guys. They told these guys, 'Tell us what you know, and you won't lose your job.' The guys thought it was their company talking, and they went along with it," she says. "PNI people don't understand how it's wrecking lives. This is all my husband has ever done--work for the newspaper."

A worker who was fired after nearly 20 years at PNI concludes, "It used to be like a big family at PNI. Not anymore. Eugene Pulliam must be rolling over in his grave.

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