Scores of Teamsters and other community members showed up in November for a pre-dawn candlelight vigil across from one of the nation’s largest drug distributors in Dublin, Ohio to remember the victims of the opioid crisis which has taken tens of thousands of lives in recent years across the U.S.
The event, held outside Cardinal Health’s headquarters right before its scheduled annual shareholders meeting, drew people who shared their stories on how they lost loved ones in part due to the proliferation of painkillers that have flooded the marketplace during this decade. The Teamsters have been active in raising awareness on the issue and calling for corporate accountability from companies like Cardinal Health.
“We’re seeing more people die as a result of opioid abuse than we saw lose their lives in the Vietnam War,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall. “We’re at over 91 people per day that are dying as a result of the improper use of opioids, and we’ve got to do something about it. We have an obligation not only to this country but to our working members, many of whose families are suffering because of these pharmaceuticals.”
Hall and other Teamster representatives addressed Cardinal Health shareholders during its annual meeting later in the morning, asking them to establish an independent committee that investigates the company’s business practices. They also asked Cardinal Health to take greater accountability for the companies’ role in what the Ohio Attorney General says is fueling the opioid crisis in Ohio.
The Teamsters, which holds investments in Cardinal, planned the protest to highlight a shareholder proposal asking the company to separate the positions of chairman and CEO, and to make the chairman post an independent director.
While Cardinal officially opposed the proposal, in a surprise announcement, it took precisely those steps. Current Chairman and CEO George Barrett will give up the CEO title and will step down as chairman following next year’s shareholders meeting. The next chairman will be an independent director.