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Reporter finds labor, safety concerns as TSMC rushes to build chip plants in Phoenix

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company made a big splash in the Valley when it broke ground in 2021 on a massive new plant in the north Valley. The next year, things kicked into higher gear when President Joe Biden visited the site for a “tool-in” ceremony and the company announced a second factory at the site. 

The TSMC project is a massive investment in the Phoenix economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs and the most advanced semiconductor technology there is. The company is spending $40 billion on the projects and will receive billions in federal dollars from the CHIPS and Science Act. 

But Lee Harris, reporter for the American Prospect,  found underlying safety concerns and labor disagreements at the TSMC site. Harris spoke with The Show about it.

The Show also invited a representative of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to come on the program. The company sent us a written statement in response to Harris’s piece, saying the following:

In Arizona, TSMC is building what will be the most advanced chipmaking technology in the U.S., which will not only support our U.S. customers but also America’s goal to reestablish its strength in chip manufacturing.

On matters of safety:

TSMC is deeply committed to workplace safety. In Phoenix, there have been zero work related fatalities since the groundbreaking in 2021. We are regularly audited against known safety standards by organizations such as the Arizona Department of Safety and Health (ADOSH).

TSMC also conducts its own internal audits of safety records against state and national figures. In Arizona, our injury incident rates are significantly lower than state and national benchmarks.

On matters regarding workforce: 

Arizona is a “Right-to-Work” state and we welcome all workers. TSMC Arizona is an open site with close to 12,000 staff – including union and non-union employees -- on the project daily.

We operate highly sophisticated chipmaking facility systems and unique expertise is required for specific TSMC Arizona construction activities. We are bringing to Arizona select specialized talent with strong experience for this support. These workers will be here temporarily to support the fast ramp-up of this project and to help us build what will be the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology in the US. These temporary assignments will not impact the 12,000 workers currently on-site every day nor our U.S.-based hiring.

We look forward to accelerating this project and ultimately spurring economic benefits, creating thousands of high-paying jobs, and driving innovation in Arizona and across the U.S.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.