Why Businesses and Labor Need to Work Together

Today’s guest blog comes from Kathy Bilotas, State Government Affairs Advisor at Eli Lilly and Company.

Earlier this fall, I joined labor leaders, biopharmaceutical company representatives and Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo for a tour of the training center facility at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 51 in East Providence, Rhode Island. What brought these seemingly unrelated groups together, you ask?  To demonstrate the importance of business, labor and government coming together to create smart policies to encourage economic growth.

In order to discover and produce life-saving medicines and cures, the biopharmaceutical industry demands exacting standards for their research and manufacturing facilities. With each new drug trial, whole facilities must be wiped clean, surfaces must be sterilized and entire systems must be replaced. High-skilled labor is a critical factor when building and retrofitting biopharmaceutical facilities. We can’t afford to discontinue a trial or start over in the discovery process because of cross contamination or an uncontrolled factor.

The building construction trades invest more than $1 billion a year in training their members to learn the latest technology and cutting-edge techniques. For nearly 14 years, the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA) has united labor unions in the building construction trades and the biopharmaceutical industry with the shared goals of expanding the economy, creating high-quality union construction jobs, and fostering innovation. The facility tour, organized by PILMA, Rhode Island AFL-CIO and UA Local 51,  highlighted some of these investments. The video below shows a sneak peek at the facility tour.

As the facility tour demonstrated, the building trades customize their apprenticeship training programs to the specific needs of biopharmaceutical companies. Local 51 has a training room dedicated to the installment and maintenance of piping for anesthesia, oxygen and other compounds vital in hospitals. They know that one mistake in the installation of these systems could cost someone their life.

Behind every apprentice there must be a job; Lilly is proud to work with union contractors and their highly trained skilled workforce for much of our capital expansion and maintenance.  We rely on their skills to build and manage the facilities required for our quest for developing life-saving medicines.

Not only are the building trades the highest-skilled, but they are the safest-trained workforce in the world. Access to skilled workers is essential to the discovery and production of new medicines and cures. Biopharmaceutical companies and the building trades unions depend on one another for continual innovation and for keeping jobs here in the U.S.