CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Dozens of labor and advocacy groups on Wednesday called on President Joe Biden to save nearly 1,500 jobs at a pharmaceutical plant in West Virginia that will close at the end of July.
Pharmaceutical company Viatris Inc. announced in December that it will lay off workers at the Morgantown plant, previously operated by the generic drug company Mylan. Upjohn and Mylan merged last year to form the new company, which announced it would cut 20% of its workforce worldwide. Viatris is now one of the world’s dominant manufacturers in the generic industry, which has been consolidating for years.
The measures left workers scrambling to find new jobs when the main employer left West Virginia, a state that often tries to attract new businesses to improve its stagnant economy.
A new campaign led by Our Revolution, a nonprofit political organization founded by Bernie Sanders, urges Biden to use the Defense Production Act to prevent the United States-based Viatris from closing the plant. It also asks Biden to convene a working group of labor groups, local leaders and others to determine how the plant could continue to produce pharmaceutical or medical products.
“Once a new strategy is implemented that aligns the plant’s physical assets with our national interests, the plant can be modernized as needed and current workers can be rehired,” the letter to the president reads. .
Viatris spokeswoman Jennifer Mauer issued a statement that “the decision to cease operations at Chestnut Ridge as part of a global multi-site restructuring initiative was something we did not take lightly and in no way reflects the appreciation of the company for the commitment, work ethic and valuable contributions of our employees. “
He added that the intention of the company has been to provide “generous comprehensive severance packages” for those laid off. Viatris was formed in 2020 and sought incorporation in Delaware, with global centers in Pittsburgh and Hyderabad, India, and Shanghai, China.
Some industry groups have lobbied to improve the US pharmaceutical supply chain.The Accessible Medicine Association in April 2020 proposed a plan for the federal government to establish a list of essential drugs for the US and expand national production.
But the loss of the Morgantown plant will not have a major impact on domestic generic drug production, said Rachel Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Accessible Medicine Association.
Our Revolution’s letter to Biden said Morgantown workers include union members, researchers and scientists “who together can produce more than 18 billion doses of generic life-saving drugs each year.” But Schwartz said there are nearly 150 manufacturing sites left across the country, which together produce more than 60 billion doses of generic drugs a year.