Globalization is knocking at home: Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Mountain State
Two weeks before Christmas Day 2020, nearly 1,500 workers at the Viatris plant in Morgantown, West Virginia, formerly known as Mylan, received devastating news.
The company had decided to shut down the operations of the 56-year-old pharmaceutical plant. The workers’ jobs would be sent overseas to India and Australia.
“We have been informed that the plant will close permanently on July 31, 2021,” Joe Goudz, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 8-957, which represents many workers at the plant, told Fox News. .
Viatris said in a statement that the decision to close the plant was part of a “global restructuring initiative.” They insisted that “the phasing out of manufacturing operations at Morgantown was a decision the company had not taken lightly and in no way reflected our true appreciation for the commitment and ethics of work of employees “of the plant.
Many of these employees don’t know what to do next. “I can leave the area. My family can leave the area,” said William Hawkins, who worked at the plant for fourteen years.
The factory serves as a sort of institution in Morgantown because of its history. It was originally operated by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a local company that was founded in West Virginia by Milan Puskar.
Around town, locals speak of Puskar and his company with a reverence normally reserved for saints. “Everything that was here was because of Mylan,” said Kathleen Kurincak, owner of a local business. “The big hospital, the stadium, all the businesses, dental, medical, restaurants, grocery stores – everything, tire shops, car dealerships. Why are they here? Because there were people to serve.
Puskar stepped down as chairman of the company in 2009 and passed away shortly thereafter. Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom described it as a turning point for the company. “We could see the writing on the wall. And basically what happened was that Milan Puskar, when he passed away, you were able to start to see a change in the whole environment. towards the workers and our community, ”he said.
In 2019, it was announced that Mylan would merge with Upjohn, the generics division of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. This merger was completed in 2020; the resulting company was called Viatris. One executive who left Mylan during this time was her former CEO, Heather Bresch. Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, was reportedly given a $ 30 million golden parachute. Just weeks after the merger was finalized, Viatris announced the layoffs from Morgantown.
“They have totally shifted their attention overseas and away from their hometown. They are interested in expanding into China,” said David Beard, reporter at Morgantown. Dominion Post said of the consequences of the merger.
Since December, the USW has called on local politicians to do whatever they can to save their jobs. But Morgantown’s elected officials said they weren’t even able to visit the Viatris factory, which could help them attract potential buyers for the facility. In the spring, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution urging President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to modernize the facility to produce medical supplies. A few weeks before the plant closes, the administration has not yet expressed an interest in doing so.
It would be easy for Americans to think of what is happening in Morgantown as just a bad local story. But the reality is America has lost millions of manufacturing jobs over the past few decades. What happens in Morgantown has been played out community after community, as manufacturing has gone overseas and workers who have spent decades loyal to the same company found themselves out of work.
“It can happen anywhere. Not just in a small town in West Virginia,” Russell Livengood, one of the plant’s workers, warned of the shutdown. “There are going to be more.”