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Pharmaceutical Industry Commitment to Unions Worth $1.5 Billion

The new study shows the economic benefits of building union

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by Guest Post on
Jul 02, 2021

The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association today released an update to its first-of-its-kind report on the economic impact of the long-standing partnership between skilled craft unions and the biopharmaceutical industry in Illinois and 13 other states. The report found that Illinois building trades helped drive $1.55 billion in investment on major construction projects (over $5 million) active at any point between 2015 and 2021. During the same time period, skilled craft union worker earnings in Illinois reached nearly $72 million – representing nearly 2 million union hours of work – in addition to significant funding for union health insurance and pension benefits. Updated from a study between 2012 and 2017, the study shows a steady growth in investment from the biopharmaceutical industry both in Illinois and in the US – with the investment and earnings growing every year since 2015.

"This study demonstrates the value of the critical partnership between the biopharmaceutical industry and the skilled construction craft union workers in Illinois. We are proud of the talent and work ethic of our members. The industry invests in our workforce because they trust our skills, our training, and work ethic," said Ralph Affrunti, President of The Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council.

The study was conducted by the Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES), a non-partisan network of academic researchers whose goal is to find pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market issues in the construction industry. Data for the study were provided by Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consulting firm specializing in market data on major power, energy, and industrial infrastructure projects in the United States.

Additional key findings of the report include:

  • 11 major construction projects were active in Illinois at any point during the six-year time period analyzed.
  • 14 skilled Illinois craft unions contributed an estimated 1,929,249 labor hours to biopharmaceutical industry construction projects over the six years, earning $71,787,348.
  • Electricians, instrumentation technicians, plumbers and pipefitters, and carpenters had the highest number of labor hours among the Illinois trades.  

"We are fortunate to have these highly skilled construction workers at the ready to help us as we produce medicines that fight deadly diseases," said Kurt Anderson, Associate Director for State Government Affairs, Novartis. "We need to employ complicated processes in order to serve the patients who rely on us. Our facilities in Illinois are home to state-of-the-art laboratories and manufacturing centers and require the skill and expertise of building trades workers who build and maintain these complicated projects."

The biopharmaceutical sector in Illinois turns to union contractors and their workers because of their long-established and highly effective training and apprenticeship programs. Building, refurbishing, and retrofitting biopharmaceutical facilities to handle next-generation research and development requires an educated, skilled, and experienced labor force.

North America's Building Trades Unions spend more than $1.6 billion a year on apprentice and education programs throughout the country without imposing a nickel of student debt or requiring a dime of taxpayer money. Workers develop skills while on the jobsite and participate in classroom learning in the evenings.

The full report is available at

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