New Study Shows Skilled Craft Unions And Biopharmceutical Industry Partnership Resulted In $23.6 Billion In Major Construction Project Investment Over 6 Years


WASHINGTON, July 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's leading building trade unions 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. America's building trades helped drive $23.6 billion in investment across 14 states on major construction projects over $5 million active at any point between 2015 and 2020. During the same time period, skilled craft union workers worked a minimum of 22.3 million hours – earning more than $774 million in wages -- and provided tens of millions of dollars in funding for union health insurance and pension benefits.

Annual data provided in the study reveals that nearly every state featured sharp year-over-year increases in construction spending in the industry between 2015 and 2020.  The study estimates that industry construction spending will increase to $6.5 billion in 2021 and will remain above $5 billion annually through 2025.

"Following one of the worst economic downturns in our nation's history, this data reinforces how we are driving critical investment that supports middle-class families with good jobs, while taking cutting-edge science from concept to reality," said Joseph Sellers, General President of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA). "We are particularly proud of the role our members have played in saving lives and bringing back America's economy with their work on jobsites that researched, developed, and delivered the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. This report shows the tremendous impact of the partnership between skilled craft unions and the life sciences sector on regional economies throughout the country and on America's skilled union workers."

The study was produced 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:

  • 14 different trades contributed more than 22 million labor hours to biopharmaceutical industry construction projects.
  • Electricians, instrumentation technicians, and plumbers and pipefitters accounted for more than half of the 22 million total union labor hours analyzed.
  • Total earnings of union construction workers at these projects were more than 774,227,156.
  • When all construction projects active between 2015 and 2020 were considered across the 11 states (rather than only $5+ million projects), the total investment rose to nearly $29 billion.
  • In 2020, even during the most dramatic economic collapse since the Great Depression, the biopharmaceutical industry invested more than $6.1 billion in construction spending, providing work for skilled craft workers at a time of unprecedented work stoppages in other sectors.

"The medical breakthroughs that our industry's scientists are focused on every day would quite simply not be possible without the help of skilled craft union workers," said Chris Lepore, Vice President, US State Government Affairs for Johnson & Johnson and Co-Chair of PILMA. "The state-of-the-art labs and manufacturing facilities that we have built together require a level of precision and exacting specifications that only comes from a combination of experience and training."

The biopharmaceutical sector turns to union contractors and their workers, in part, 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. Union construction apprenticeship programs are among the most successful and long-standing workforce development systems in the US, allowing enrollees to "earn while they learn."

North America's Building Trades Unions spend over $1.6 billion a year on these education programs without imposing a nickel of student debt or requiring a dime of taxpayer money. Workers develop skills while working on a jobsite and participating in classroom learning in the evenings. A conservative estimate based on the data gathered for the study shows the pharmaceutical and biotech industry was responsible for a minimum of $6.7 million in funding for union apprenticeship programs in these 14 states between 2015 and 2020.

"At the United Association, it's not just the plumber who protects the health of the nation. It's our entire membership, including our members who work on these state-of-the-art facilities that are critical to the biopharmaceutical industry," said Mark McManus, General President of the United Association. "With more than 22 million manhours across the different trades working on these facilities, our partnership is a steady source of good jobs with a direct impact on our communities. Our members are the best-trained and most-highly skilled craftspeople in the industry, making the United Association an integral part of an industry that brings life-saving treatments to American families. We are incredibly proud of our work with this partnership, and we look forward to continuing to protect the health of the nation for generations to come."

The trend lines in the study show that the biopharmaceutical industry is accelerating investment in building and renovating its facilities. Investment increased every year between 2015 and 2020 and is expected to continue growing in 2021. IIR projects the total investment to approach $6.5 billion in 2021 and remain above $5 billion annually through 2025. Continuing this trend requires market and regulatory conditions that incentivize continued investment in the health and prosperity of America's workforce.

The full report is available at

Study Methodology

The report examined private-sector biopharmaceutical construction projects active at any time between 2015 and 2020 in 14 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, and WA). The states included in this report were selected by PILMA. The report relies extensively on data from Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consulting firm specializing in market data on major power, energy, and industrial infrastructure projects in the U.S. The study team identified major private-sector projects in each state and made estimates of total industry construction spending and labor demand based on IIR data. Projects that were co-developed with academic institutions, government (e.g. NIH), and hospital systems were not included in the analysis. The second part of the study integrated data from IIR and the U.S. Census Bureau to examine the economic impact of the partnership between the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and construction trades unions.

About the SMART Union

SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, is one of North America's most dynamic and diverse unions with 203,000 members. SMART's members produce and provide the vital services that move products to market, passengers to their destinations and ensure the quality of the air we breathe. We are sheet metal workers, service technicians, bus operators, engineers, conductors, sign workers, welders, production employees and more. With members in scores of different occupations, we advocate for fairness in the workplace, excellence at work and opportunity for all working families.

About the United Association

The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada (UA), affiliated with the national building trades, represents approximately 355,000 plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, service technicians and welders in local unions across North America. We also honor a federation agreement with both the Australian Plumbing Trades Employees Union (PTEU) and Irish Technical, Engineering Electrical Union (TEEU).

About Johnson & Johnson

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress. That's why for more than 130 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and every stage of life. Today, as the world's largest and most broadly based healthcare company, we are committed to using our reach and size for good. We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere.

Every day, our more than 130,000 employees across the world are blending heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.

About Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association

PILMA is a coalition of labor organizations 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. More information is available at

The Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES)

The Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES) is a non-partisan network of academic researchers whose goal is to find pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market issues in the construction industry.


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