Illinois construction unions sue members of opioid industry

February 14, 2019

The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 have teamed up as the first unions in Illinois to sue the manufacturers, distributors and prescribers of opioid painkillers, according to abc7chicago.com.

Although construction has been booming in downtown Chicago, such jobs can take a physical toll.

"Any time you are up in the air, whether it's a high-rise building or lifting big materials, there is always a chance for injury," says Gary Perinar, head of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.

The Centers for Disease Control report construction workers have the highest rate of opioid-related overdoses compared with all other U.S. occupations. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters lost two of its members during the past couple of months, and Perinar says the problems are also costing their union health fund millions of dollars as carpenters increasingly struggle with opioid addictions.

The unions reportedly filed the lawsuit to hold drug manufacturers, distributors and doctors accountable.

"The suit accuses the drug companies of fraud, unjust enrichment and conspiracy for the way they falsified research and misled people into believing their opioids were not addictive," says Ari Scharg, attorney with Edelson PC, Chicago.

Union attorneys say they are not looking for a settlement and would rather have the case go to trial to force companies to release information about their drugs.