How Unions are fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Gold, J. (2018, Sept. 21). Workers overdose on the job and employers struggle to respond. The New York Times.

This article highlighted two important topics that are important to Tennesseans during this election season. One, is access to affordable health care and the other is how to respond to the opioid epidemic.

First, when we talk about expanding Medicaid to cover 300,000 Tennesseans who are working in low-income jobs, the types of jobs and employees we are talking about are the people highlighted in this article.  Many are day laborers, construction workers, etc.  Who work in the extreme elements of hot and cold.  Who perform back-breaking work, who sweat, and who get dirty just to name a few perks of the jobs.  Most construction companies do not provide health insurance to their laborers. These laborers make too much money in Tennessee to qualify for TennCare but they don’t make enough money to purchase health insurance on the insurance marketplace.  Please just remember that when we are talking about expanding Medicaid, we are talking about letting folks in hard working jobs have access to health care.

Second, we all know that Tennessee is dealing with an opioid epidemic.  I have written about opioid addiction extensively.  This article also covered how construction companies are turning a blind eye to laborers with opioid addictions.  Laborers are nodding off from a recent drug injection, passing out, or overdosing at work.  Friends have administered Narcan to friends who have O.D.’d at work.  Some laborers shoot up heroin before work.  Construction companies do not require drug tests because they fear they would be left without enough employees to fill the jobs. While the construction companies aren’t helping, the labor unions are helping.

Unions are starting to step up to the plate and help out struggling laborers who are battling addiction and recovery.  When laborers join the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, they are given a drug test and then given random drug tests after that.  The union helps get laborers into rehab or avoid jail time for rehab instead.  The union members also help struggling addicts get back on their feet by checking in on them and helping them find jobs if they are clean.  We often hear the saying, “It takes a village,” and in terms of fighting the opioid epidemic, it will indeed take a village.  We need to support our unions because they are stepping in and helping employees where corporations have turned their backs on them.

So, if you know of a laborer struggling with an opioid addiction, please try to steer them into joining a labor union.  The union might save their life.

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