Opioids, Unions, and the Socialist Project
Interrogating Connections, Strategizing Activism

In 2017, opioid overdoses claimed 49,068 lives in the US. This epidemic now surpasses the mortality of the HIV/AIDS crisis at its peak, annual deaths by car accident, suicide, gun violence or chronic kidney disease. Death by opioid also accounts for two thirds of all US overdose deaths, which totaled 72,000 in 2017. As with previous substance use crises, such as meth in the 2000s, crack in 1980s, and heroin in the 1970s, the current scourge also has a definable if shifting demographic profile. While it is hitting whites under 45 and blacks over 45 the hardest, it has had a lesser—though growing—impact on Hispanics. Men more often succumb than women and those without college degrees suffer at higher rates than those with them. At an aggregate level, there is also a distinct pattern of former industrial states—primarily those in the Northeast and Midwest—showing higher-than-average death rates. Pain- and/or stress-inducing occupations are also tied to fatal overdoses. There is a clear correlation between union decline since the early 1980s and state-level death rates today. What implications does America’s opioid crisis have for the project of building socialism—or, for that matter, a resurgent and effective labor movement—in the twenty-first century? This panel will bring together established critical scholars from these fields to discuss connections among the opioid crisis, underlying class conditions and strategies for effective working-class

| More