Almost lost in all the fighting words from UAW leaders this month was a cry for help from the factory floor: UAW members want their leaders and the automakers to take up the fight against opioid addiction, together.
The crisis afflicts the entire nation, but the auto industry is acutely exposed, with workers whose jobs leave them prone to chronic pain and injuries, and a factory footprint that overlaps the most deeply affected regions.
The industry's response has been sincere so far, but piecemeal. Employee assistance representatives are available at factory sites, but they're struggling with an overload of cases. Health insurance benefits are available for addicts, but those benefits can't fully cover the extended treatment the addicts need to get clean. Automakers' efforts remain small-scale, and fears about privacy and job loss stymie even those attempts.
That's why the UAW's resolution calling for coordinated action is so significant. It aligns with the union's broader mandate to promote employee health and workplace safety. And it follows in the union's historical tradition of advancing social progress through collective bargaining.
Opioid addiction is a big, complex problem that demands a comprehensive approach. Given their scale and history, automakers and their union are uniquely suited to the task.
We're eager to see the auto industry lead this fight on behalf of all workers and businesses — and win it.