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Mylan Protest

Mylan worker Donna Walls-Ford challenges Gov. Jim Justice to do more in helping the workers fight for their jobs during a protest in June at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston.

In another Hail Mary attempt to save the former Mylan Pharmaceuticals plant in Morgantown, now less than 10 days from closure, a Monongalia County delegate has asked the federal government to designate the plant as a critical infrastructure facility to keep its doors open.

Through an obscure office in the Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency can designate American manufacturing facilities and their employees as essential to the nation’s survival.

On Feb. 4, the agency rescued an antibiotic manufacturing facility in Bristol, Tennessee, from imminent closure by declaring its workers essential and their operations critical. Less than two months later, a private health care company purchased the facility, yanking it out of bankruptcy.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said after learning Sunday of this story, she penned the 3-page letter on Monday to the acting director of the security agency, pleading for the same designation. The Tennessee plant historically produced billions of doses of antibiotics — where, in Morgantown, the former Mylan plant had produced close to 20 billion doses of generic drugs at its peak. Still, the facility has pumped out 16 billion to 18 billion doses in recent years, according to local union officials.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors considered vital to national security and public health, Fleischauer wrote. As the global supply chain remains hamstrung by the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a secure domestic supply chain for pharmaceuticals is of the utmost importance, she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to our nation’s attention that we suffer from severe supply chain deficiencies in our domestic manufacturing capacity,” she wrote. “In particular, the pandemic has taught us that over-reliance on foreign supplied raw materials and on foreign manufacturing, in the pharmaceutical industry, is a weakness that threatens our public health and national security.”

Beyond the facility’s importance to the nation’s infrastructure, Fleischauer wrote about the direct and indirect economic fallout and consequences of the closure. The local water utility last month approved 13% rate hikes for water customers, 12% for sewer customers and 18% for stormwater utility customers as a direct result of the expected closure. The utility claimed a $936,000 hit to its “bottom line,” Fleischauer wrote. Tax revenue and property values will certainly fall, too, she said.

“It is a huge issue in this community,” Fleishauer said by phone. “I cannot emphasize how critical Mylan Pharmaceuticals has been in our community.”

Viatris, the corporation that now owns and operates the former Mylan facility on Chestnut Ridge Road, will be sending these jobs overseas to India and Australia. Fleischauer wrote that President Joe Biden and his Department of Homeland Security should recognize that and avoid the outsourcing of American jobs.

“Because the employees at the Mylan plant have already been approved for Trade Adjustment Assistance by the Department of Labor, the fact that their jobs are being shipped overseas has officially been acknowledged,” Fleischauer wrote.

On Wednesday, a national progressive political organization delivered a letter to Biden, calling on him to invoke the Defense Production Act to save the plant.

What stings most about Viatris’ abandonment in North Central West Virginia and the institutional knowledge held by Mylan workers, Fleischauer said, is its motive for skirting American regulations and hiring cheap foreign labor.

“It’s all for profit,” she said.

Viatris will close the facility’s doors July 31, and 1,246 workers will be laid off. Another nearly 200 workers are to be kept on until the facility completely shutters in March 2022, and then laid off.

Reach Joe Severino at

joe.severino@wvgazettemail

.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jj_severino on Twitter.

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