Globalization arrives: Mylan Pharma and Mountain State
Two weeks before Christmas Day in 2020, nearly 1,500 workers at the Viatris facility in Morgantown, West Virginia, formerly known as Mylan, were received with devastating news.
The company had decided to shut down the 56-year-old pharmaceutical plant. Workers’ jobs would be relocated abroad to India and Australia.
“We were notified that the facility would be permanently closed on July 31, 2021,” Joe Goudz, president of United Steel Workers (USW) Local 8-957, which represents many workers at the facility, told Fox News.
Viatris said in a statement the decision to close the plant was part of a “global restructuring initiative”. They insisted that “Closing production operations in Morgantown was a decision that was not taken lightly by the company and in no way reflected our genuine appreciation for the dedication and morale of the employees” at the plant.
Many of these employees do not know what to do next. “I can leave the area. My family can leave the area,” said William Hawkins, who worked at the factory for fourteen years.
Because of its history, the plant serves as a kind of institution in Morgantown. It was originally operated by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a local company founded in West Virginia by Milan Puskar.
Across the city, locals speak of Puskar and its society with awe that is usually reserved for saints. “Everything that was here was thanks to Mylan,” said Kathleen Kurincak, a local business owner. “The big hospital, the stadium, all the shops, dentists, doctors, restaurants, grocery stores – everything, tire shops, car dealerships. Why are you here? Because there were people who had to be served. “
In 2009 Puskar resigned as chairman of the company and passed away shortly afterwards. Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom described this as a turning point for the company. “We could see the writing on the wall. And basically, when Milan Puskar died, seeing a change in the whole environment towards the workers and our community,” he said.
In 2019 it was announced that Mylan was merging 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 former CEO Heather Bresch. Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, was reportedly awarded a $ 30 million gold parachute. Just weeks after the merger was complete, Viatris announced the layoffs of Morgantown.
“They have completely shifted their focus overseas and away from their hometown. They are keen to expand in China, “said David Beard, a reporter for the Morgantown-based Dominion Post, of the aftermath of the merger.
Since December, the USW has been calling on local politicians to do everything possible to save their jobs. But elected officials in Morgantown said they couldn’t even tour the Viatris plant, which could help them attract potential buyers to the facility. In the spring, the West Virginia House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to upgrade the facility to produce medical supplies. As the plant is only a few weeks away from closure, the administration has not yet shown any interest in it.
It would be easy for Americans to simply dismiss what is happening in Morgantown as an unfortunate local story. But the reality is that America has lost millions of manufacturing jobs over the past few decades. What happened in Morgantown played out community after community as production went overseas and workers who had remained loyal to the same company for decades became unemployed.
“It can happen anywhere. Not just in the small town of West Virginia, ”warned Russell Livengood, one of the factory’s employees, of the closure. “There will be more of them.”