Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Addiction Services Program Helps Machinists Get Clean and Sober

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Vinny Ceraso has been a Machinists (IAM) member since 1993, but in 2019 he took on an important new challenge when he was put in charge of IAM’s Addiction Services program. The program is free to IAM members and their families and has helped nearly 150 people find the resources they need in just two years.

“We don’t provide any direct services. We provide options,” Ceraso explained. “Immediately I listen and do an evaluation. Then it’s time to find them a treatment place. It doesn’t matter where you live, I am going to match you with the best facility for you, because everyone’s recovery is unique. It probably won’t be the one down the block from where you live.”

The program’s success is a natural result of Ceraso’s approach to the issue of addiction. “Anyone can treat you for drugs and alcohol, but can they treat you for the underlying issue? That’s what gives the Machinist Union such a high rate of success.” Ceraso’s approach is particularly successful at preventing relapses. “The average relapse rate in this country is about 78% or so in the first year, which is ridiculous. If you go out three years, 92% or 93% of people are going to relapse. But if you go through the Machinists, it’s about 2% or 3%. Not because of me, but because we are being very specific about where we send people.”

Ceraso said that bargaining units can include language in contracts to direct members to the program. “At the start of 2020, before the world changed due to COVID-19, we put together a one-page contract insert that I encourage any bargaining unit to consider,” said Ceraso. “Not only does it explain the program to members and the company, but it offers a way to protect the person seeking help, without the fear of discipline, if they call us.”

The success of the program astounds him, Ceraso said. “Every single day, I wake up proud of this program because every day I know that the union, which employs me, had the consciousness of making this help available to its membership. And every single day, I get to help our members get healthy and stay alive.”