PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, says its membership is in the grips of an opiod addiction crisis, and they are preparing to file a lawsuit against companies that make the prescription drugs.
IBEW Local 98 says in the past year alone, eight of its members suffered opioid-related deaths.
“Opioids are a huge issue for the whole construction industry,” said Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty.
He says his blue-collar workers in the construction industry are a hearty bunch, but when some of them get hurt at work sites, they turn to an array of narcotics prescribed for pain management.
“We pride ourselves in giving our members great wages and benefits,” Dougherty said. “I want to make sure that we give them long life, too.”
Dougherty points to what he calls “alarming data” on opioid prescription timelines.
He says for those Local 98 members who received prescriptions for five days or less, the addition rate was 10 percent. But the addiction rate jumped to 25 percent for those who received opioid prescriptions for ten days or more.
As a result, the union put a lid on its policy. It is limiting prescriptions to no more than five days.
Dougherty envisions a possible class-action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical manufacturers of opioids.
He’s put out the word to the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, the umbrella organization for more than 50 member local unions that work in the construction industry in the Greater Philadelphia region, and IBEW’s International Union in Washington.