At a Kentucky UAW hall in late October, a meeting to discuss the opioid crisis stretched hours longer than planned.
Law enforcement, rehabilitation experts and even a former NBA player spoke with UAW members and their families about the dangers of opioid misuse, warning signs of addiction and tools to get loved ones help.
It was one of many events held for UAW-Ford Motor Co. members at sites around the country in the two years since the company and union rolled out the Campaign of Hope, an education and awareness initiative to combat drug misuse among hourly and salaried workers.
And it's the type of initiative the UAW wants for all of its 431,000 members — starting with those at the Detroit 3 — to set a standard for how industries nationwide address opioid addiction and recovery for employees.
"This is a life-and-death issue, which is why we'll make this issue part of our national negotiations," UAW President Gary Jones told more than 900 members who gathered this month in Detroit to set bargaining priorities for talks beginning this summer. A resolution to add the opioid crisis to that list won overwhelming support, as members shared stories of addiction involving themselves, co-workers and friends and family.
"It affects our entire membership," Jones said, "whether it's a brother or sister struggling with the addiction, or watching while a family member struggles."