Boston – Teamsters Local 25, New England’s largest teamsters union with more than 12,500 members, is the first Mass. labor organization to provide opiate awareness training for shop stewards.
The initial training session, held recently at the Teamsters Local 25 Union Hall, marked the first time a union has proactively addressed the addiction crisis by providing peer-to-peer training. The mission is to train Local 25 shop stewards, as peer advocates in the workplace, be able to detect problems and direct members to available resources for help. The goal is to save lives, improve quality of life, and help Local 25 members and their families during this unprecedented epidemic.
Teamsters Local 25 is providing this innovative program in partnership with TeamstersCare and Mass. Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH). It is funded through support from the Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) in response to its report examining the occupations of all Mass. residents who died from opioid overdose. Ironworkers Local 7 and the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) are also participating.
“While there is much work left to do, our administration is proud Massachusetts was one of very few states where opioid-related overdose deaths decreased in 2017 and 2018 because of our focus on increasing access to treatment, restricting highly addictive prescription painkillers, and educating the public about the consequences of opioid addiction,” said Governor Charlie Baker.“We are pleased to see Teamsters Local 25 become the first labor organization to train their members about the dangers associated with the opioid epidemic, and we encourage other organizations across Massachusetts to follow their lead.”
The opioid crisis impacts all sectors of our society, but the stigma of addiction often discourages people from seeking treatment. With this in mind, Teamsters Local 25 is taking a bold approach to help members.
“Opioid addiction is destroying lives at an increasing rate and it is our responsibility as union leaders to do everything possible to help our members,” said Teamsters Local 25 President Sean M. O’Brien. “Local 25 has a long tradition of creating a culture of wellness and recovery, boosted by the work of our dedicated TeamstersCare team and willingness to engage with our members. This new training is about saving lives and helping people during a time of crisis. Shop Stewards are in position to be first to recognize problems on the job, so it’s imperative we train them to guide members who may be battling addiction toward the help they need.”
The importance of providing help at the peer level cannot be overstated, according to MassCOSH, an organization dedicated to improving workplace conditions and safety. “We applaud Teamsters Local 25 for addressing this serious workplace safety issue,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan. “Peer-to-peer engagement is the most effective way to avoid opioid addiction and to get a person to accept help. Stewards are on the ground and ready to help, but they must have information and support. They are getting both from this program.”
“We are the front line of defense, the first to see signs someone is struggling, but we need the tools to help” said Steve Valente, Teamsters Local 25 Steward at UPS in Chelmsford. “This training teaches us how to effectively engage with someone in this situation and how best to connect them with resources and help that will hopefully lead to recovery. Local 25 is an organization that cares about its members and families, and this training is an extension of that caring.”
Teamsters Local 25 has a long commitment to helping members who fall victim to alcohol or substance abuse disorders. The union has provided its Referral and Follow-Up Team (R.A.F.T.) program for more than 35 years, with volunteer members helping brothers and sisters who are struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse. The Employee Assistance Program at TeamstersCare provides top quality medical care with a priority focus on mental health and Substance Abuse Disorder.