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Illinois Labor Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Big Pharma Accountable for the Opioid Crisis

Unions seeking to recover costs for members’ opioid-related issues

The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters (CRCC) and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 (Local 150) recently filed a lawsuit against leading opioid manufacturers, distributors, and prescribers in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The joint lawsuit seeks damages for defendants’ efforts to maximize profits at the expense of union members’ lives, families, and communities. It is the first opioid lawsuit brought by Illinois unions.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and financial compensation to recover the unions’ costs relating to the opioid epidemic, which has disproportionately affected their membership of more than 30,000 carpenters and 23,000 engineers throughout Illinois, Northern Indiana, and Eastern Iowa and has led to the loss of union members at an alarming rate. Construction industry workers have a higher incidence of opioid-related overdose deaths than any other occupation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The unions allege that opioid manufacturers carried out a targeted misinformation campaign to promote opioid use; professional organizations unethically backed this deceptive campaign; distributors failed in their duty to monitor the market as opioid orders reached excessive and dangerous levels; and certain doctors indiscriminately wrote thousands of opioid prescriptions for patients at their clinic in suburban Chicago. A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

This lawsuit probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many in the construction industry, and it isn’t the first time EC&M has reported on this topic. According to the November 2018 feature article, “Bitter Pill,” by Freelance Writer Tom Zind, there’s growing evidence that “those in construction occupations are among the most likely to use opioids, and, in turn, run the risk of becoming dependent or addicted.” Why? The reasons are almost as old as the industry itself — the physically demanding nature of the work, a “get-’er-done” culture, workforce demographics, and the structure of employment create an environment friendly to prescribed painkillers, prolonged usage, and comparatively easy access to drugs in social and work circles.

Director of Content Ellen Parson also addressed the opioid crisis a recent Industry Viewpoint, saying, “An estimated 15% of construction workers have a substance abuse disorder, compared to the national average of 8.6%, according to a survey from the National Safety Council in 2017,” she wrote. “No doubt this sobering statistic relates to the fact that the injury rate for construction workers is 77% higher than the national average for other occupations.  “

For additional EC&M coverage of drugs and the construction industry, see:

TAGS: Construction
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