Center Maryland: Promote Policies that Nurture Innovation and Jobs to Produce Cures

Eric Dean, general president of the Iron Workers and Chairman of PILMA authored the following op-ed for Center Maryland. 

Click here to view on Center Maryland.

The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA), a coalition of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry and building construction trades unions, is committed to dual goals of fostering innovation of life-saving cures and securing high-quality union construction jobs.

As Chairman of PILMA, I’m invested in the issues that are of importance to our biopharmaceutical industry partners and customers, to the extent that they are of importance and have a connection to the livelihoods of our members and their families. As our industry partners remain healthy, their investment in research and manufacturing facilities – to a very large extent built by our members – grows as well.

Last month, the Washington Post wrote about proposed legislation in the Maryland legislature that would “create a commission to decide the maximum amount that health plans, pharmacies and state programs could shell out for the most expensive brand-name and patented medications.”

This so-called transparency legislation is being proposed in a number of states throughout the country, but the Maryland bill is the most egregious of any put in print. This measure essentially caps growth of businesses in the state. This creates a toxic environment for the biopharmaceutical industry that is not only anti-business but anti-jobs. If profits are capped, there is less incentive to discover new medicines, investment in new facilities dries up and jobs are lost.

The biopharmaceutical industry is a major economic driver in Maryland. In 2015, it provided over 24,000 direct jobs in the state and another 87,000 indirect jobs. Our partners in the biopharmaceutical industry depend on union labor to build state-of-the-art research and manufacturing facilities to rigorous standards. If this bill is passed, the effects on the building and construction trade unions would be significant both immediately and in the long term.

Here’s why – the building trades unions invest over $1 billion each year in apprenticeship training programs where members learn cutting-edge techniques to be the safest, most productive and highest skilled workers in the world. Behind every apprenticeship there must be a job supporting it. Apprentices earn while they learn, graduate debt free and all this is done using no taxpayer money. Without the promise of jobs provided by industries like the pharmaceutical industry, the program would not exist.

Aside from the loss of jobs, this legislation has other unintended consequences. The Federal Trade Commission has determined that the disclosure of this type of sensitive information could disrupt competitive forces within the industry, leading to price increases and medicine shortages. To make matters worse, there is nothing in the legislation that would prevent a company from being required to reveal confidential contractor bids, providing a roadmap for out of state, non-union, low cost contractors to underbid skilled union craft contractors.

Several good ideas have been proposed to control cost and increase choice and access to medicines – but this transparency bill is not one of them. In New Jersey, state Senator Steve Sweeney (an International Vice President of the Ironworkers Union) saved the state an estimated $1.5 billion by creating a competitive bidding process for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to win the state’s healthcare business. In Maryland, another proposed policy is eliminating the gag rule, which prohibits pharmacists from telling patients when a medicine would be cheaper by paying out-of-pocket and not going through insurance. This is an unacceptable, opaque policy that allows PBMs to pad their pockets when patients overpay at the pharmacy counter. There are systematic problems with third parties in the healthcare system that through reform, can result in direct savings for patients.

We all want laws that help protect our access to good and affordable healthcare, but this so-called transparency legislation is a failed approach at legislating. While it makes for good politics, it is bad policy. Of the three states which have passed similar legislation, two have been mired in litigation, costing state and taxpayer dollars.

It takes an average of 10 years and $2.6 billion to bring a drug to market. Without safeguards in place to protect this type of confidential information that promotes competition, the industry would lose critical incentives to discover life-saving cures and treatments. As a result, capital investment in research and manufacturing facilities that provide millions of jobs for working families could become at risk.

Forbes: Is America Falling Short On Skills?

Eric Dean, general president of the Iron Workers and Bill Brown, CEO of Ben Hur Construction authored the following op-ed for Forbes. 

Click here to view the article on the Forbes website.

As President Trump prepares to ramp up his push for an infrastructure package, many contractors and plant owners continue to report concerns over the skilled labor shortage. There seems to be an article every day in every major newspaper and construction industry publication about the so called “skilled labor shortage.” Is there such a desperate lack of skilled labor in the nation, or is it a disconnect between skilled labor supply and demand?

The construction industry constitutes 5% of our economy, and time is working against us as the Baby Boomers exit the workforce at a rapid rate. The situation is compounded by the thinking that anyone who doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t deserve a decent wage. Many in the industry have their hand out, asking the Department of Labor for a grant to train their employees, while the inability to meet construction deadlines is making a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

But it’s not as gloomy as the picture being painted. It’s only part of the picture.

The building trades have a ready supply of job-ready, skilled, safe workers at any given time. They have the solutions for the so-called skilled labor shortage: training, apprenticeships, diversity and wages. While their counterparts struggle to meet the demand, the building trades have managed to maintain a ready supply of skilled workers through comprehensive training, innovative apprenticeship programs, measures to improve diversity, worker retention, and fair wages.

The answer to contractors’ and plant owners’ problem has been right under their noses all along.

The building trades invest in comprehensive training including in-depth safety training, saving time and money for contractors (employers) and end users (customers). The top most desired quality the employers and customers look for in a workforce is safety. A safe workforce reduces injuries, fatalities and costly delays adding up to huge cost savings.

President Trump expressed his support for the building trades at the NABTU Legislative Conference back in April and before a welcoming audience of building trades at the Rivertowne Marina in Cincinnati’s East End in August. More importantly, he recently announced plans to make expansion of apprenticeship programs the center of his labor policy as an answer to the skilled labor shortage. The president declared a week in June to be “Workforce Development Week” to recognize the important role apprenticeships play in closing the skills gap.

At a White House press briefing in June, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta acknowledge the success of apprenticeship programs in the building trades.

Apprentices play an essential role in the growth and development of a safe and highly-trained workforce just as resident doctors are necessary to meet critical needs at a hospital. Per the U.S. Department of Labor, 9 in 10 Americans who complete apprentice training land a job, and their average starting salary is $60,000 a year. The return on investment for apprentices is impressive – for every dollar spent on apprenticeship, employers get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity, reduced waste and greater frontline innovation.

While many contractors report trouble finding skilled labor, accredited apprenticeship programs in the building trades churn out highly-trained and skilled apprentices with on-the-job training every day. Take the Iron Workers’ (IW) earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship model for example. The 3-4-year IW apprentice program provides 6000-8000 hours of on-the-job training and over 700 hours of classroom training. Apprentices are paired with multiple employers over the course of the program. The IW training centers collectively spend between $80 million and $90 million a year in training a skilled labor force and average nearly 50,000 applications every year. Clearly, there’s no shortage of interest in the trades. Once they become journeymen, they complete journeymen upgrade training to keep their skills sharp just as continuing education credits are necessary for engineers and lawyers. Every year on average 2000-4000 journeymen are certified in some crucial skill. The IW alone has nearly 80,000 well-trained journeymen and nearly 20,000 apprentices as of April 2017.

Employers are reporting a severe welder shortage. It’s the most critical demand in the industry. Once again, the building trades have armies of certified welders. The IW alone has more than 12,000 certified welders in the U.S. and nearly 5,600 in Canada and the certifications are transferable among jobs eliminating the need for expensive retesting. They even come with easy online credential verification.

The building trades are also taking steps to improve diversity and retention rates as a part of the solution to the skilled labor shortage. For example, the IW recently introduced a generous paid maternity leave benefit. Such initiatives help improve recruiting and retention rates and those investments make good economic sense. Women make up half of the population and they are a viable answer to the problem.

The immigration policy debate is irrelevant to the skilled labor shortage. How can we remedy the “skilled labor” shortage with cheap, low-skilled labor? The reason some advocate for cheap foreign labor is just that – it’s cheap. The fact that the building trades have a ready supply of skilled workers doesn’t change no matter the direction the immigration policy goes.

The Construction industry has experienced stagnant growth in wages for decades per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The push for an unfettered supply of low-skill, low-wage workers over the past 40 years by some politicians and businesses has led to exploitation, wage theft, safety violations, and misclassification of workers.

It’s not an accident that President Trump met with the leadership of organizations that supply a skilled construction workforce on his first day in office. For his Buy American – Hire American executive order and the proposed infrastructure plan to be a reality, the answer must be found at home and it is simple – the building trades. If contractors and end users need skilled labor, they must know where to look, set aside any preconceived notions and misconceptions about the building trades and be willing to invest in skilled labor.

Bergen Record: Workers win when Jersey drug companies innovate

Greg Lalavee, Business Manager at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, authored the following op-ed in the Bergen Record. 

Click here to view the article on the Bergen Record website.

New Jersey’s nickname, “Medicine Chest of the World,” is backed up by the numbers. Our state is home to more than 3,000 life sciences establishments. Thirteen of the world’s top 20 biopharmaceutical companies have made the Garden State their U.S. headquarters. These firms are innovating and saving lives every day – and they couldn’t do it without help from supportive government policies and New Jersey’s well-trained and talented union workforce.

For over 12 years, the biopharmaceutical industry and members of the building construction trades unions have partnered to grow the economy, create high-quality jobs and foster innovation. This coalition, formalized as the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association, is driven by the shared belief in pushing the limits of what is possible architecturally and medically.

Biopharmaceutical companies make huge, risky investments to invent new drugs. On average, it takes over a decade and $2.6 billion to bring a new medicine to market. Once its drug is approved, a company must manufacture the medicine quickly and flawlessly.

Research and manufacturing facilities must be built to rigorous specifications. If the environment is not sterile, or the HVAC system is improperly installed, or the room is not perfectly level, billions of dollars in research and development could be lost.

That’s why skilled tradesmen are so important.

North America’s Building and Construction Trades Unions, of which my chapter, IUOE Local 825, is a member, invests over $1 billion of private funding each year to train its members to be the safest and highest-skilled workers. Apprenticeship programs are particularly important. Apprentices earn while they learn – attending night school while working on the job site during the day. Because of this ongoing training, biopharmaceutical companies have a reliable pool of skilled construction workers ready to build and retrofit facilities whenever companies are ready to break ground.

The impact of these global companies’ investments in New Jersey reverberates throughout the state. In 2013, biopharmaceutical companies purchased $6.5 billion worth of goods and services from local businesses. This spending keeps our members on the job site so they can continue to earn a paycheck and maintain status in the middle class.

We’re lucky to have elected representatives like Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-Ocean County, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, who support policies – such as labor protections and strong intellectual property rights – that allow both workers and biopharmaceutical firms to thrive. They understand how our members’ livelihoods depend on the drug industry’s investments in New Jersey, and how a stable regulatory environment gives businesses confidence to invest.

Our members take great pride in working on projects that will one day produce innovative, life-saving medicines. It is imperative that our state continues to protect and nurture industries that spur the economy, create jobs and save lives.

Congressman Tom MacArthur Tours IUOE Local 825 in Dayton, NJ

On May 12, 2017 Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney toured the Operating Engineers Local 825 training center in Dayton, New Jersey.

The event, hosted by We Work for Health NJ, the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, Local 825 and PILMA, highlighted the rigorous training and apprenticeship programs that prepare members to build and retrofit biopharmaceutical facilities where new treatments and cures are discovered and manufactured.

Learn more about the tour here and the video below.

Delaware News Journal: Delaware workers, companies must unite to confront threats

Sam Lathem, the former president of the Delaware AFL-CIO, authored the following op-ed in the Delaware News Journal.

Click here to view the article on the News Journal website.

This election season has featured the usual speeches about the importance of American workers and expanding job opportunities. And as usual, the statements have lacked detail, particularly about some of the most serious emerging threats to Delaware’s labor force.

To confront these threats, workers, companies and political leaders must all stand united.

Over 40 million jobs in the United States are linked to industries that rely heavily on intellectual property. According to a report by the U.S. Commerce Department, this sector of the economy contributes more than one of every three dollars of the nation’s gross domestic product. If these companies are not able to protect and capitalize upon the intellectual property they have developed, there is a ripple effect that affects jobs and workers.

Consider the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which is consistently one of the largest employers in our state, with 2,100 direct employees in Delaware. The firm’s economic benefits are felt throughout the state, creating a substantial amount of indirect jobs.

The same is true of the biopharmaceutical industry as a whole. New treatments and cures are fully dependent upon maintaining a robust patent and intellectual property system. Intellectual property is protected in the U.S. not only by patent protections but also through data exclusivity, which protects data gathered from long-term clinical testing for 12 years. This is imperative so that companies’ innovations are safeguarded from theft.

On average, pharmaceutical companies invest more than one billion dollars on researching, developing, testing and bringing each new drug to market. This has a direct connection to employment. In order to meet the rigorous standards required by the industry and federal regulations, biopharmaceutical companies hire members of North America’s Building Trades Unions to build and maintain their state-of-the-art research and manufacturing facilities.

Another reason companies hire union labor is because of the certainty provided. Facilities must be built on time, on budget and with precision. The building trades meet this challenge by spending over $1 billion training its members annually. Earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs are taught at over 1,600 training centers in all 50 states. Thus, the economic impact of intellectual property-dependent companies is apparent.

That’s why there is legitimate concern about the fragile ecosystem in which these companies exist. The strong intellectual property protections in the United States make it possible for the biopharmaceutical industry to earn a profit – even in an environment in which only one of every 10,000 drugs make it to market. That’s why companies invest here. However, when patent protections are diminished and the data exclusivity period shortened, these investment incentives are lost and so are the jobs that are so vital to tens of thousands of American workers.

We’re working closely with members of Congress like Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who have developed and supported legislation aimed at protecting American innovation and invention. Our national support for labor needs to be translated into specific policies that will protect intellectual property and data exclusivity and continue to encourage companies to invest here and create high-quality jobs.

It is important that as a society we are able to see the bigger picture – of how creating an environment-friendly to business spurs investment, invigorates the economy and most important, puts people to work.

Statement Concerning Unintended Consequences of CMS’ Proposed Medicare Part B Demonstration

The members of PILMA approved the following statement concerning the unintended consequences of CMS’ proposed Medicare Part B demonstration and its effect on patient access to needed medications.

Click here to view the statement.


ICYMI: PILMA supports access, affordability and transparency in healthcare

The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association is committed to supporting innovation in the life sciences and the promotion of high-quality union construction jobs. Equally important, is PILMA’s steadfast commitment to patients’ access to affordable medicines, transparency in healthcare exchanges and the elimination of barriers to access. In light of the dialogue sparked at the 2016 PhRMA Annual Meeting, PILMA reaffirms support for the following resolutions:

RESOLUTION CONCERNING patients’ access to affordable health care coverage and transparency in insurance market exchanges.

RESOLUTION CONCERNING the need for policies promoting patients’ appropriate medication adherence in order to improve the health of society and reduce long-term healthcare costs. 

The Hill: Building a better America

In an op-ed published in The Hill, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) announced the creation of the Congressional Building Trades Caucus, a bipartisan collaboration in the House that will advance the agenda of all hardworking Americans.

Click here to view the article on the Hill’s website.