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 largest construction trade unions today released an update of their first-of-its-kind report on the economic impact of the long-standing union partnership with the biopharmaceutical industry. America’s construction industry helped $23.6 billion in investments in 14 states in major construction projects over $5 million was active at any time between 2015 and 2020. During the same period, skilled union workers worked a minimum of 22.3 million hours, representing more than $774 million in wages — and provided tens of millions of dollars in funding for union health insurance and retirement benefits.

Annual data provided in the survey shows that construction spending in the construction industry rose sharply on an annual basis between 2015 and 2020 in almost every state. $6.5 billion in 2021 and stays above $5 billion annually until 2025.

“After one of the worst economic downturns in our country’s history, this data bolsters how we’re driving critical investments that support middle-class families with good jobs, while taking advanced science from concept to reality,” said Joseph Sellers, General President of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and President of the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA). “We are extremely proud of the role our members have played in saving lives and bringing back the U.S. economy with their work on job boards that researched, developed and delivered the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. This report shows the tremendous impact of union and life sciences collaboration on regional economies across the country and on skilled union workers in America.”

The study was conducted by the Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES), an impartial network of academic researchers with the aim of finding pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market problems in the construction industry. The data for the study was provided by Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consultancy specializing in market data on major energy, energy and industrial infrastructure projects in the United States.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • 14 different occupations contributed more than 22 million labor hours to construction projects in the biopharmaceutical industry.
  • Electricians, instrument technicians and plumbers and pipe fitters accounted for more than half of the 22 million total union hours analysed.
  • The total earnings of construction union workers on these projects was over 774,227,156.
  • When all construction projects active in the 11 states between 2015 and 2020 were considered (instead of just $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 expenditures, providing work for skilled craftsmen at a time of unprecedented work stoppages in other sectors.

“The medical breakthroughs that our industry’s scientists focus on every day simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of skilled union workers,” he said. Chris Lepore, Vice President, US State Government Affairs for Johnson & Johnson and Co-Chairman of PILMA. “The state-of-the-art labs and manufacturing facilities we have built together require a level of precision and exacting specifications that come only from a combination of experience and training.”

The biopharma industry is turning to union contractors and their employees, in part because of their longstanding and highly effective training and internship programs. Building, renovating and adapting biopharmaceutical facilities to handle next-generation research and development requires an educated, skilled and experienced workforce. Apprenticeship union building programs are among the most successful and long-lasting workforce development systems in the US, allowing enrollees to “earn while they learn.”

North Americas Unions build more than $1.6 billion a year on these education programs without incurring a penny of student debt or charging a dime in taxpayers’ money. Employees develop skills while working in a workplace and participating in classroom classes in the evenings. A conservative estimate based on the data collected for the study shows that the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry was responsible for at least $6.7 million in funding union apprenticeship programs in these 14 states between 2015 and 2020.

“At the United Association, it’s not just the plumber protecting the health of the nation. It’s our entire membership, including our members working on these state-of-the-art facilities that are critical to the biopharma industry,” said Mark McManus, General President of the United Association. “With more than 22 million man-hours across the various industries working on these facilities, our partnership is a constant source of good jobs with a direct impact on our communities. Our members are the best trained and most highly skilled professionals in the industry, enabling the United Association becomes an integral part of an industry that provides 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 survey show that the biopharmaceutical industry is accelerating investment in the construction and renovation of its facilities. Investments increased every year between 2015 and 2020 and are expected to continue growing in 2021. IIR expects to approach total investment $6.5 billion in 2021 and stay above $5 billion annually through 2025. Continuing this trend requires market and regulatory conditions that drive continued investment in the health and prosperity of the U.S. workforce.

The full report is available at:

Study methodology

The report examined private sector biopharmaceutical construction projects operating in 14 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA and WA) between 2015 and 2020. The states in this report have been selected by PILMA. The report draws extensively on data from Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consultancy specializing in market data on major energy, energy and industrial infrastructure projects in the US. The research team identified major private sector projects in each state and made estimates of total industry spending and labor demand based on IIR data. Projects co-developed with academic institutions, government (eg NIH) and hospital systems were not included in the analysis. The second part of the study integrated data from IIR and the US Census Bureau to examine the economic impact of the partnership between the pharmaceutical, biotechnology industry and construction unions.

About the SMART Union

SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, is one of North Americas most dynamic and diverse unions with 203,000 members. SMART members manufacture and provide the essential services that bring products to market, transport passengers to their destinations and ensure the quality of the air we breathe. We are sheet metal workers, service technicians, bus drivers, mechanics, conductors, sign workers, welders, production workers and more. With members in many different professions, 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 Construction Industry, represents approximately 355,000 plumbers, pipe fitters, 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 the Irish Technical, Engineering Electrical Union (TEEU).

About Johnson & Johnson

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

Every day, our more than 130,000 employees around the world combine heart, science and ingenuity to revolutionize the health journey for humanity.

About the Association for Labor Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry

PILMA is a coalition of labor organizations and pharmaceutical companies that have joined forces to grow this important sector in our economy, create quality jobs and promote medical innovations to cure disease. More information is available at

The Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES)

The Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES) is an impartial network of academic researchers with the aim of finding pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market problems in the construction industry.


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