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Story highlights

Factory owner Regina Mitchell says Ohio's opioid epidemic means jobs are left open

"We just can't find people to show up who can pass a drug test," she says

CNN —  

An Ohio factory owner said Saturday that though she has blue-collar jobs available at her company, she struggles to fill positions because so many candidates fail drug tests.

Regina Mitchell, a co-owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, told The New York Times this week that four out of 10 applicants otherwise qualified to be welders, machinists and crane operators will fail a routine drug test.

In an interview Saturday with 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.

“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.”

President Donald 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.

But 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.

Opioid use is on the rise across the country, but especially in Ohio. In 2014, the state had the second-largest number of opioid-related deaths in the United States and the fifth-highest rate of overdose.

“This opioid epidemic that we’re experiencing … it seems like it’s worse than in other places all over the country,” Mitchell said.

Ohio’s new law on medical marijuana, which went into effect in 2016 and allows those with a qualifying condition and a recommendation from a physician to buy the drug legally, was another hurdle for employers to overcome, she said.

“The difficult part about marijuana is, we don’t have an affordable test that tells me if they smoked it over the weekend or smoked it in the morning before they came to work. And I just can’t take the chance of having an impaired worker running a crane carrying a 300,000-pound steel encasement,” she said.

For now, she said, there are almost 12,000 open skilled labor jobs in Mahoning County.

“There are good-paying jobs and the opportunity for people in our area. We just can’t find people to show up who can pass a drug test,” she said.