PILMA Chairman Issues Statement on Legislative Proposals that would Harm Innovation and Jobs

On January 16, 2019, Eric Dean, General President of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers and Chairman of PILMA issued the following statement on legislative proposals that would negatively impact innovation and jobs.

View the statement in PDF. 

The biopharmaceutical industry supports more than 4.7 million American jobs.  Significant investment in capital expansion and maintenance by the industry creates union construction jobs, ensuring continued work that keeps our members in the middle class.  As Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA), a coalition of unions in the building construction trades and companies in the biopharmaceutical industry committed to advancing medical innovation to cure disease and creating high-quality union construction jobs, I urge your commitment to the bedrock American principles that allow the biopharmaceutical sector to flourish and contribute to U.S. economic growth.  

As the 116th Congress opens, there is no lack of poorly conceived ideas being introduced that would have a devastating impact on this vital U.S. sector.  PILMA’s longstanding position on price controls in the form of importation and reference pricing states that these policies would upend the discovery of new medicines, halt the expansion of new research and manufacturing facilities and immediately harm union construction jobs.

In addition, the price control mechanisms being proposed would put America’s access to safe medicines at risk.  As PILMA detailed in its resolution on importation, it is well documented that unless medicines are produced in the closed prescription drug distribution system overseen by the FDA, there is no way to determine where imported drugs originate. This opens the U.S. market to counterfeit drugs from countries with little to no regulation with the real possibility of harm and fatalities for patients. 

Reference pricing is another proposal that would have far-reaching, detrimental consequences. America’s competitive market-based economy enables new medicines to be available to patients in the U.S. often before they are offered in other countries. If implemented, tying the price of medicines to those in less developed countries could delay medicine availability to U.S. patients and present a significant barrier to access. 

PILMA has long held positions supporting intellectual property rights and patent protections, policies that position the United States as a world leader in R&D intensive industries.  These Constitutionally protected policies provide incentive and predictability for industries to invest with the assurance of the opportunity to recoup investment, a key component when planning capital construction projects that put our members to work.

The biopharmaceutical sector is a vital U.S. industry that makes significant contributions to the growth of the economy and the health of all Americans and those around the world. It is imperative that policies are implemented to boost up this sector rather than try to dismantle it for short-term political gain. I urge you to review the implications of the policies being debated and consider the negative impact they would have on innovation and union construction jobs.




New PILMA Study Shows Partnership Drives $14B in Construction

December 13, 2018

Today, PILMA in partnership with the Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES) released a first of its kind report quantifying the economic impact of the partnership between the building trades unions and the biopharmaceutical industry. Main takeaways include:

  • The partnership between skilled craft unions and biopharmaceutical companies helped drive $14 billion in construction investment on 249 major projects active at any time between 2012 and 2017 in 11 states.
  • Skilled craft union workers earned a minimum of $454 million on biopharmaceutical construction projects over the study time period.
  • 14 different trades contributed more than half a million labor hours to the projects with considerable investment in apprenticeship programs.

View the full study at pilma.org/unionjobs.

View the press release.


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.

Providence Journal: Labor, industry build R.I.

Tim Byrne, Business Manager of United Association Local 51 and George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, authored the following post following the PILMA facility tour at Local 51 in East Providence, Rhode Island.

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

In Rhode Island and around the country, it is often said that labor, industry and government should put aside differences and work together to build up the economy, create jobs and spur innovation. Here in Rhode Island, we’ve listened, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Earlier this year, we hosted a training facility tour of United Association Local 51 with Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, representatives of the biopharmaceutical industry and area labor unions. They saw firsthand how our state-of-the-art training programs prepare apprentices to meet the retrofitting and construction needs of Rhode Island industry. Bringing these groups together is evidence of how our cooperation is putting people back to work.

Rhode Island was hit hard by the recession, with construction taking the brunt of the blow. As the unemployment rate falls for the state overall, job creation in this sector continues to lag. Before businesses can invest locally in new and existing infrastructure, they must first have confidence in their economic outlook. That’s what we’re seeing in Rhode Island — a state whose unemployment rate dropped dramatically from 7.7 percent a year ago to 5.8 percent today.

Despite the recession, the biopharmaceutical industry has continually relied on the skill of our members.

This industry, and members of the building construction trades unions, have been working side-by-side for over 10 years, committed to the shared goals of expanding the economy, creating quality jobs and fostering innovation. The driving force behind this partnership, formalized as the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association, is the shared belief in and dedication to pushing the limits of what is possible.

Whether it is discovering life-saving cures or retrofitting a custom environment to manufacture medicines, the building trades and biopharmaceutical industry are continually innovating and challenging their capabilities.

As the business manager of UA Local 51 and the president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, we must prepare our members to meet and exceed industry standards. To remain competitive, the building construction trades unions invest over $1 billion in training their members each year to learn the latest technology and cutting-edge techniques, all privately funded. This means that the biopharmaceutical companies have a ready pool of skilled construction workers to build and retrofit facilities where new drugs and even cures are discovered and manufactured.

We are fortunate that Governor Raimondo recognizes the importance of creating a stable environment for business to thrive and investing in new and existing infrastructure here in Rhode Island. Her initiative, Real Jobs Rhode Island, does just that by ensuring that businesses have access to a skilled workforce to meet their needs.

The biopharmaceutical industry sets exacting standards for its research and manufacturing facilities. Companies that invest in Rhode Island, such as Amgen, whose recent $500 million expansion was built with a project labor agreement, have realized that hiring union contractors makes good business sense since they are putting the best-trained, safest and most productive workers on their capital construction projects. They know that hiring union workers means that the job will be done right the first time.

Our members also enjoy the benefits of new medical breakthroughs much as other Americans do. The building trades provide top medical care for our members and as a result are healthier throughout their lives and into retirement.

The building construction trades take great pride in our work. This is especially true for those who build and retrofit biopharmaceutical facilities. We’re proud to build the foundation, walls and surfaces where scientists are developing new therapies to treat cancer, prevent the spread of deadly disease and develop other cures for illnesses that were once fatal. Their contribution not only earns them a paycheck, but also the knowledge that they have made a difference in the quality of life of Americans and people throughout the world. It’s important that we continue to protect the industries that provide life-saving medicines as well as the jobs, economic vibrancy and the medical breakthroughs that come with it.

MSNBC Video: Apprenticeships Offer Debt-Free Job Training

Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions, highlights in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece how apprenticeship programs help individuals learn trades. He joins to explain how the programs work and how they are “a much more cost-effective way of acquiring jobs skills than a traditional college degree.

Click here to view the video.

PILMA Honors President Wise

Jacqueline Kirby, AstraZeneca, presents an award to President Walter Wise for his service as chairman
Jacqueline Kirby, AstraZeneca, presents award to President Walter Wise for his service as PILMA Chairman.

At PILMA’s May 27th Trustee Meeting, the trustees unanimously approved a resolution honoring President Walter Wise for his outstanding leadership and thoughtful engagement while serving as Chairman of PILMA. Wise will retire as President of the Iron Workers International on July 1, 2015 and subsequently will step down from his chairmanship. On behalf of all the PILMA trustees, Jacqueline Kirby of AstraZeneca presented Wise with a commemorative award for his unwavering service.

Jobs for New Cures, a Labor-Industry Partnership

PILMA Chairman and Iron Workers General President Walter Wise highlighted the benefits of the labor-industry partnership in the following LillyPad guest post:

Click here to view it on the LillyPad website.

“For three years I have chaired the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA). It’s a coalition of labor unions and companies in the pharmaceutical industry who have joined forces to grow this important sector in our economy, create high-quality jobs, and promote medical innovations to cure disease.

While at first it may not be obvious what these two groups have in common, it is in fact fundamental. The belief in quality is what keep both thriving and competitive in our economy. Companies like Eli Lilly and Company see the value in working with the men and women in the skilled craft trades because they can count on us to do the job right the first time.

In developing the highest-quality medications and cures, state-of-the art facilities must be built and maintained up to scrupulous standards. The industry can’t afford any cross contamination from a leaky HVAC hood or loose piping when testing, developing and manufacturing medications. That’s where America’s Building Trades come in. They devote more than $1 billion each year to training their members at their 1,600 training facilities all over the country. It’s no exaggeration to say that these are the highest skilled and safest trained workers in the world.

In order to communicate the value of the partnership, PILMA organizes tours of building trades training facilities attended by pharmaceutical industry representatives and elected officials. It’s an eye opening experience for those unfamiliar with the rigor and detail of the work performed there.

“For the assignments they’re given – and the biopharmaceutical industry is a good illustration – they’ve got to be the best,” said Senator Dick Durbin following a tour of Chicago Pipefitters Local 597. “It isn’t just so that they produce a good product, it’s so that what comes at the end of the laboratory work and the production work does the thing it’s supposed to do – keep America healthy and safe.”

The men and women of America’s Building Trades are also lifelong patients. With close ties to the pharmaceutical industry, they receive quality healthcare throughout their lives and into retirement. Access to experienced providers and affordable medicines allow workers to stay on the job longer and do what they came to do.

PILMA is a snapshot of how high-quality labor is a necessity for high-quality products. The promise of good jobs allows the Building Trades to invest in training their workers and in return the pharmaceutical industry benefits from cutting edge technology and techniques for equipping their facilities. Without the promise on both sides new medications and lifesaving cures would not be possible.”