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Drug-Free Work Week Article for Union Publications (LONG)

<UNION NAME> Locals and District Councils Encouraged to Participate in Drug-Free Work Week

<DATES> is National Drug-Free Work Week, and <UNION NAME> locals and members are encouraged to participate. The purpose of Drug-Free Work Week is to highlight that being drug free is key to workplace safety and health and to encourage members that may have alcohol and drug abuse problems to seek help.

Drug-Free Work Week is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor in coordination with members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance. This cooperative program, which represents both employer/contractor associations and labor unions, aims to improve safety and health through drug-free workplace programs. It focuses on the construction industry because research indicates that it has higher than average rates of worker alcohol and drug abuse-a serious concern given that it also tops the list of industries with the highest rates of workplace accidents and injuries. But because drug-free workplace programs benefit all workplaces, employers and employees in all industries, not just construction, are encouraged to take part in Drug-Free Work Week.

Below are specific suggestions for how <UNION NAME> officers and members can support Drug-Free Work Week. Ideas range from small to comprehensive efforts, but all help promote safer, healthier worksites and represent sound workplace practices that can be implemented at any time of the year.

  • Implement a Drug-Free Workplace Program - Drug-Free Work Week is the perfect time to approach your employers about launching a Drug-Free Workplace Program if they do not have one already. Such programs are natural complements to other initiatives that help protect worker safety and health. This U.S. Department of Labor Web site offers detailed guidance on how to develop a balanced program that respects the rights of workers, starting with the first step: a written policy.
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  • Promote your Drug-Free Workplace Program - If your workplace already has a Program, Drug-Free Work Week is a logical time to remind your members about its important role in keeping them safe. One way to do this is to distribute copies of the drug-free workplace policy to all workers, along with a positive message about the importance of working safely and drug free.
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  • Train shop stewards - As part of Drug-Free Work Week, unions could provide training to shop stewards to ensure they understand employers' policies on alcohol and drug use; ways to deal with members who have performance, discipline or grievance problems that may be related to alcohol and drug use; and how to refer members to available assistance. Supervisory training materials available on the Working Partners Web site may be adapted for this purpose.
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  • Educate members - To achieve a drug-free workplace, it is helpful for members to understand the dangers of alcohol and drug use and addiction - both as it impacts worksite safety and individual health. Consider asking a member who is public about his or her recovery from alcohol or drug addiction to speak at a union meeting about the devastation of addiction and the importance of getting help to work drug-free.
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  • Remind members about the availability of assistance - If your union has a Labor or Member Assistance Program (LAP or MAP) or your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Drug-Free Work Week is a great time to remind them about the availability of these confidential services. LAPs, MAPs and EAPs can help members resolve personal and workplace problems, including alcohol and drug abuse. They may also offer confidential substance abuse screenings and help members locate local treatment resources.
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  • Suggest health screening - Unions can use Drug-Free Work Week to encourage members to look at their own use of alcohol and drugs and privately determine if they need help to change their behavior. For example, they can inform workers about the confidential, self-administered online screening tool AlcoholScreening.org and, if possible, provide access to the Internet in a private location in case they want to use it.
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  • Compile a list of local resources - Whether or not there are union or employer health services available, help for alcohol and drug abuse is likely available through a nearby hospital, public health department or substance abuse treatment center. Draft a list of local resources and post or distribute it, along with a message such as "It's important to work drug free, but if you can't, help is available." To locate resources in your community, visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov or phone 1-800-662-HELP. Also, self-help programs such as the 12-step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are free and available nationwide. A local phone book may provide contact information.
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  • Review your health insurance policy - Coverage for substance abuse treatment makes it more likely that workers struggling with alcohol and drug problems will get the help they need. If your union or health and welfare fund provides health insurance benefits, review the policy to see if substance abuse treatment is covered, and if it is not, consider discussing the prospect of adding coverage with the person who handles your benefits.
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  • Encourage members to volunteer in community drug prevention efforts - Drug-Free Work Week offers a chance to show commitment to prevention both on and off the worksite. Such efforts often are coordinated by schools, faith-based organizations and community anti-drug coalitions. For more information, contact Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America at www.cadca.org.
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  • Create a Drug-Free Workplace display - Use Drug-Free Work Week to freshen up bulletin boards in the union hall or other locations that members frequent, posting positive messages about the importance of being drug-free to their safety and that of their coworkers. The Working Partners Web site has posters available to help you get started. Other materials could include a copy of the union's drug-free workplace policy, a list of local and national helplines, and LAP/MAP or EAP contact information, if applicable.
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  • Feature Drug-Free Work Week in the union newsletter or intranet - Drug-Free Work Week offers timely and fresh content for a union newsletter or Web site. Articles could address a range of topics, including general information about substance abuse and its impact in the workplace environment; sources of help for workers with substance abuse problems; and actions workers can take if they think a coworker may have a substance abuse problem. An easy way to do this is to use one or more "drop-in" articles available on the Working Partners Web site.
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  • Hold a social event celebrating safety and health - A social event or union meeting with plenty of food, fun and non-alcoholic drinks can help reinforce the importance of being drug free to working safely and remind workers that alcohol is not necessary to unwind and relax. Consider teaming up with a local employer to help co-sponsor such an event. The theme could be one of general health and wellness, with door prizes such as gift certificates for local health clubs or recreational activities.