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.