Carpenters, Local 150 Sue Big Pharma for Opioid Crisis, Member Harm

Press Release
Feb. 2019

Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 150 Bring First Illinois Labor Lawsuit to Hold Big Pharma Accountable for the Opioid Crisis

Unions Seeking to Recover Costs for Members’ Opioid-Related Suffering

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

Chicago-based law firm Edelson PC is representing the unions in the suit, along with their associated welfare funds the CRCC Welfare Fund and the Midwest Operating Engineers Health and Welfare Fund.

“For years now, unscrupulous drug companies have deliberately chosen to pad their pockets at the expense of our members’ health and well-being. The time has come for them to finally step up and take responsibility for the immense harm they have caused,” said CRCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Gary Perinar. “Our lawsuit aims to recover the health, dignity and economic welfare of our communities, and to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and financial compensation to recover the unions’ substantial 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.

“Unions have long been leaders of community development and social justice, so it is fitting that we are leading the charge to address the consequences of this devastating epidemic among our members and working Americans,” said Local 150 President-Business Manager James M. Sweeney. “Workers experiencing pain-related injuries have been overprescribed opioids that have little if any medical benefit and lead to addiction, despair and death, while our welfare funds have been compelled to shoulder the unjustifiable financial burden of related health care and disability payments.”

The unions allege that opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Allergan and Teva, carried out a targeted misinformation campaign to promote opioid use; professional organizations, including Chicago-based American Academy of Pain Medicine and American Pain Society, unethically backed this deceptive campaign; distributors, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, failed in their duty to monitor the market as opioid orders reached excessive and dangerous levels; and doctors Paul Madison and Joseph Giacchino indiscriminately wrote thousands of opioid prescriptions for patients at their clinic in suburban Chicago.  A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

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Chicago Sun-Times Article

Cook County Record Article

ABC7 Chicago Report:
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, construction workers have the highest rate of opioid-related overdoses compared to any other occupation in the country. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters lost two of its members in the last couple months. (Executive Secretary-Treasurer Gary) Perinar, who heads the union, said the problems is also costing their union health fund millions of dollars as more and more carpenters struggle with opioid addictions.

“‘It affects their ability to perform on a job site, it hurts our contractors with respect to productivity, it’s a downward spiral in moving forward in a carpentry career,’ (Perinar) said.”

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