Today’s guest post comes from Walter Wise, General President of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA). As General President, he is a member of the Building and Construction Trades Department’s Governing Board of Presidents and the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO.
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.