"No-Call, No-Show" Employees: Opioid Addiction Is Devastating American Manufacturers

We've spent a lot of time of late discussing the impact of opioids on the American workforce.  While it is unclear exactly how much of an impact opioids are having on the steadily declining labor force participation rate, one thing is clear: nearly half of working age men not in the labor force today take some form of opioids on a daily basis.

But, as Bloomberg points out today, drug abuse among those still gainfully employed is perhaps an even bigger problem for American manufacturing employers because of the safety concerns it presents.  Meanwhile, the additional drug testing costs associated with maintaining a safe work environment, in an era in which opioid addiction is spiraling out of control, tend to "mount up" as additional employees are required just to manage rigorous testing programs.

At Philip Tulkoff’s food-processing plant in Baltimore, machines grind tough horseradish roots into puree. “If you put your arm in the wrong place,” the owner says, “and you’re not paying attention, it’s going to pull you in.” It’s not a good place to be intoxicated.


Drug abuse in the workforce is a growing challenge for American business. While economists have paid more attention to the opioid epidemic’s role in keeping people out of work, about two-thirds of those who report misusing pain-relievers are on the payroll. In the factory or office, such employees can be a drag on productivity, one of the U.S. economy’s sore spots. In the worst case, they can endanger themselves and their colleagues.


That’s why Tulkoff practices zero-tolerance. One randomly chosen employee gets tested every month, “and we’re gonna move it to two.” The costs mount up: He has to hire a third-party company to select the worker, and pay the clinic to conduct tests. Money is wasted training workers who subsequently drop out when they fail the screening.


"We caught someone recently, saw him injecting,’’ said Jay Steinmetz, chief executive of Barcoding Inc. The Baltimore company creates software, and provides equipment, that helps businesses manage their inventory. It’s a desk environment, with none of the grinding machinery that poses risks for Tulkoff’s staff.

Of course, other manufacturing companies have decided to take the opposite approach on drug testing as too rigorous a program would inevitably just result in excessive layoffs in an already tight labor market.

It’s no wonder that not every boss is as rigorous as Tulkoff. “I know people who’ve said, ‘I can’t do it, I would lose too many people’,” he says.


At the moment, 57 percent of employers say they perform drug tests, according to the National Safety Council. Out of those, more than 40 percent don’t screen for synthetic opioids like oxycodone -- among the most widely abused narcotics, and one of the substances that new federal rules are targeting.


“I have heard manufacturers over the years say, ’We wish we didn’t have to test for drugs,’ because they lose money when they can’t fill those positions,’’ he said.


Meanwhile, "no-call, no-show" employees, those who simply take a job just long enough to score their next hit, are devastating to workplace productivity.

And there’s no guarantee that new hires will stick around. Drug problems are accelerating the turnover among staff.


“In the last three weeks, we’ve had six people come, get trained, and then are no-call, no-shows,’’ Greenblatt said. He said the biggest loss comes from taking high-performing employees out of the production process so they can train new hires. “That person is diverted into the completely unproductive task of teaching someone who’s going to leave in a day or two.’’


Productivity growth in the U.S. economy has been slowing for decades. There’s little consensus about the causes. But there are signs that the spread of drug-abuse could be contributing to the problem.

One Ohio factory owner shared her story with WTVR saying that although she has numerous blue-collar jobs available at her company, she struggles to fill positions because so many candidates fail drug tests. Regina Mitchell, co-owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, told The New York Times that four out of 10 applicants otherwise qualified to be welders, machinists and crane operators will fail a routine drug test. While not quite as bad as the adverse hit rate hinted at by the Beige Book, this is a stunning number, and one which indicates of major structural changes to the US labor force where addiction and drugs are keeping millions out of gainful (or any, for that matter) employment.

Speaking to CNN’s Michael Smerconish, Mitchell said that her requirements for prospective workers were simple: “I need employees who are engaged in their work while here, of sound mind and doing the best possible job that they can, keeping their fellow co-workers safe at all times,” she said.

This has proven to be a problem.

“We have a 150-ton crane in our machine shop. And we’re moving 300,000 pounds of steel around in that building on a regular basis. So I cannot take the chance to have anyone impaired running that crane, or working 40 feet in the air.”

While President Trump addressed his blue-collar base in Ohio this week, returning to his campaign theme of getting local communities back to work and returning jobs to America from overseas, the problem may not be a scarcity of jobs: it is workers who are not under the influence. As Mitchell said she has jobs... she just doesn’t have sober applicants. For 48 of the 50 years her company has been around, drug abuse had never been an issue, she told Smerconish.

“It hasn’t been until the last two years that we needed to have a policy, a corporate policy in place, that protects us from employees coming into work impaired,” she said.

Maybe instead of focusing how to perpetuate the US waiter and bartender job recovery, the BLS - and the administration - should contemplate how to eliminate the pervasive addiction problem which is rapidly becoming a structural hurdle for America's millions of unemployed.


Buckaroo Banzai Rjh Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:33 Permalink

"that four out of 10 applicants otherwise qualified to be welders, machinists and crane operators will fail a routine drug test."

These are the kinds of high-responsibility jobs that are almost exclusively filled by white men-- the one constituent that are openly despised by corporate and government elites. Niggers are too lazy and incompetent to fill these jobs, even if you could pry them away from drug dealing, pimping, or welfare, and beaners can't even fucking speak English. When you consider that skilled white men are hated, and that their wages have declined in real terms over the last forty years, and that the health care industry which is utterly beholden to the pharma industry has gotten them hooked on opioids--why should we be surprised that they are such a scarce commodity?

In reply to by Rjh

Fish Gone Bad sickavme Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:39 Permalink

While it is unclear exactly how much of an impact opioids are having on the steadily declining labor force participation rate

This is called Uhmm lets just start making shit up from here.  This problem is probably best explained by the Pareto Principle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle). 20% of the people cause 80% of the problem.  How much alcohol is consumed in the US?  80% of it is consumed by alcoholics.  The same is probably true for other substances of abuse.What to do with ALL THOSE OPIATE ADDICTS?  Put them to work harvesting poppies.  Think about it.  They can eat/smoke opium sap as much as they want, out of everyone's way.

In reply to by sickavme

NoDebt Rjh Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:41 Permalink

I can't wait until cocaine comes back in fashion.  God damn I loved that shit.  Nowadays you tell somebody you can't come in because you're all coked-up they fire you.  Tell them you're all downed-out on H and they say "Hey, listen, man, come on in when you can.  We've all been there."<NoDebt snorts a gigantic line of coke>Hey, what's up guys?  Let's do some productive shit or something.  Hey, how you doing?  Let's build some cars or something.  Hey, that's a great idea, let's sell some stuff.  Let me get on the phone.  Hi, Mrs. Smith, you need to buy this!  OK, cool, I'll put you down for 10 of them!  Hey, who wants lunch?  Me neither, I'm not hungry.  Hey, now let's do an internet startup.  This is going great!  IPO time.  Wow!  I just made a billion dollars.  ... and that's just in the first 10 minutes.

In reply to by Rjh

mkkby scintillator9 Thu, 09/21/2017 - 02:40 Permalink

Sounds like this company has incompetent recruiters. Find people with successful work experience. Check references carefully. If you get your recruitment and training cost down you can pay the fewer good workers more.

Management is usually stupid and managers are insufferable assholes. Which is why work is tedious and nobody sticks around. That costs a lot and threatens you with bankruptcy.

In reply to by scintillator9

TheRunningMan WakeUpPeeeeeople Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:46 Permalink

It depends on whether or not they have any skills, such as the ability to speak, read or do basic mathematics.  I'm not even broaching the subject of tatoos, gauges, body mods, etc.  A business can only pay for what they will get, and if an employee exhibits skills and potential, higher rates of pay will follow thanks to the demand, and lack of supply, for those attributes in the entry level workforce.  It is indeed challenging to find entry level manufacturing employees with merit...

In reply to by WakeUpPeeeeeople

takeaction Umh Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:24 Permalink

You should see the ZOMBIES walking around Portland, Oregon.  In some areas...it is pure insanity.  Also, the homeless camps everywhere...Here is the current Homeless camping activity in Portland...  You can get up to the week reports...How fun.NOTE: Not some Spam link...I promise.  Portland Police site.http://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=853296f2d0c9…

In reply to by Umh

vulcanraven takeaction Thu, 09/21/2017 - 00:50 Permalink

I was just up there last weekend visiting a friend... holy shit the white-guilt-virtue-signaling is off the charts up there. Every other house and business has a "black lives matter" sign prominently displayed... along with "we respect all genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations... you are safe here." Most cucked fucking place in the country, no doubt.

In reply to by takeaction

WhackoWarner Umh Wed, 09/20/2017 - 22:11 Permalink

I read the need to make it unavailable. That is rein in the drug cartel called CIA and all associated mafioso's.What is with this continuous war in where?  Poppy land of course.  Maybe take it to the legislation against monopolies.  CIA etal.  Got a stanglehold on poppies. Far as I can read the Taliban capped production and therefore became an enemy.  Production is way way way up now USA has been fighting for "freedom". Give me a break.  USA is cornering the drug stupid markets.  And doing it from all the highest levels with full intent. So send your sons and daughters to military to guard poppy production.  Sounds like a lofty goal does it not.  Hail USA.

In reply to by Umh

ramius WhackoWarner Thu, 09/21/2017 - 02:56 Permalink

and why are you acting so surprised? the USA simply took a page out of the British Imperialist book, remember how the britts first started the trend of opium production in afganistan, india , persia etc, and sold the finished product to the failing empire of China, so they could more easily take over and control a doused out population, and make a mint while doing that. Nothing new under the sun, it's just the actors who changed.

In reply to by WhackoWarner

Donald J. Trump Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:21 Permalink

What?  This is non sense.  I saw a TV commercial where the construction foreman was a junkie but it was ok because he was on meds to help alleviate his constipation.

Sanity Bear drugranker Thu, 09/21/2017 - 04:52 Permalink

> How can you not be addicted to opiods when every common medication has them in some form.

It starts with realizing that if you need medical care you're not going to get it from the US "healthcare" industry.

Their one and only goal is to turn you into a permanent revenue stream. Full stop. Addictive drugs and psychological abuse are just tools to that end.

In reply to by drugranker

serotonindumptruck Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:23 Permalink

I've known addicts who do their best work when they're loaded up on pain pills.If they have a good supply of pills, they'll show up for work.When they run out, they're either detoxing with severe abdominal cramps, or they're looking to score some more pills somehow.It's only when they run out of pills that the problems arise.

coast1 serotonindumptruck Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:32 Permalink

I just told this to someone today...I was going to have a guy work for me next week for 2 days...I told him, will you have cash for your stash?  because when you work high, you do good work.  If you are coming down or needing some you do shitty work...So I need you to be high those two days...Not going to give you the money up front, so beg boorow or steal, get high, and I will pay you...I know this sounds upserd, but that is what I got to deal with...He is not the only one.   So I truly hear what you are saing Mr Truck :-)

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

serotonindumptruck Xena fobe Wed, 09/20/2017 - 21:47 Permalink

I was talking about very productive and highly motivated individuals who are not legally prescribed these opiates.They buy them on the street. The illegal sale of narcotic analgesics constitutes a massive underground economy across the USSA. Many people augment their income by selling their legally prescribed opioids on the street.I'm also referring to people who don't necessarily consume these opioids orally; they usually smoke them.An 80 milligram Oxycontin (OC-80) will last a hardcore addict at least a full day, and they'll likely be highly motivated and very productive.

In reply to by Xena fobe