AZ Union Fires Back at TSMC's 'Offensive' Claims of Unskilled U.S. Workers

TSMC fab
(Image credit: TSMC)

The leader of one of Arizona's largest unions fired back at TSMC's claims that unskilled American workers have delayed construction and tools installation of its new Fab 21. Aaron Butler, the head of the Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council, wrote in his column for Phoenix Business Journal that workers for Arizona have been building and equipping fabs for Intel for decades and that TSMC is using the delay as an excuse to bring in foreign workers they can pay less.

The Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council leader representing 15,000+ union construction workers refuted TSMC's claim of a skills gap in American workers for the semiconductor project. Arizona workers have built fabs for Intel for 40 years and represent a seasoned workforce that is highly skilled and prepared for this task, Butler wrote. The unions have fulfilled all the labor hours requested by TSMC, which starkly refutes TSMC's assertion that there is a deficit of skilled American workers, Butler alleges. He also claims that TSMC failed to name skills that Arizona workers allegedly lack or the specific training these Taiwanese workers will teach the American workforce.

TSMC recently postponed the start of mass production at its Fab 21 near Phoenix, Arizona, from early 2024 to sometime in 2025 due to delays with construction and installation of wafer fab equipment. Mark Liu, chairman of TSMC, blamed "an insufficient amount of skilled workers with the specialized expertise required for equipment installation in a semiconductor-grade facility" in Arizona for the delays.

Meanwhile, the local workforce has built fabs for Intel for decades, and the American chip giant has never experienced any delays akin to those faced by the world's largest contract maker of chips. 

"Blaming American workers for problems with this project is as offensive to American workers as it is inaccurate," Butler wrote. "[...]This leaves just one alternative conclusion: that TSMC is blaming its construction delays on American workers and using that as an excuse to bring in foreign workers who they can pay less."

TSMC has historically concentrated its leading-edge fabs in Taiwan, and the only extensive semiconductor production facility it built outside of Taiwan was its Fab 16 in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China. That fab started production of chips on TSMC's 28nm process technology in 2018, at least six years after the manufacturing node debuted in Taiwan in 2011. By the time TSMC's 28nm was deployed in China, everything about this node had been perfected in Taiwan, and the technology was three generations behind TSMC's N7 deployed in Taiwan in 2018. 

Meanwhile, TSMC's Fab 21 will produce chips using fabrication processes that are only one generation behind N3 and N3E (3nm-class), TSMC's flagship production technologies currently used in Taiwan.

Unlike Intel, TSMC does not have its Copy Exactly program designed to deploy similar fabs worldwide, so it is not surprising that the company encountered problems with setting up a leading-edge production facility in Arizona.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • TechieTwo
    You knew this was coming... If TSMC thinks that they will build good relations in the U.S. by insulting skilled labor or customers they are in for a cultural shock.
  • bigdragon
    If I'm reading between the lines correctly, the union appears to be calling out a situation where TSMC budgets for an inadequate number of work hours and expects employees to continue working beyond those hours. A lot of corporations expect this kind of uncompensated overtime. It's wrong. Everyone should be paid for their work...all of their work.
  • Elusive Ruse
    TSMC expects highly skilled pros to slave away to benefit their overlords, that's not gonna fly in the US or Europe.
  • Chrys
    ... Who didn't see this coming? I would have assumed that the cost per unit of work for a union member in America vs a sla... um, worker in Taiwan would be about 10x the price. They are willing to put in 80 hard hours per week, where union members might put in 20. I knew some people who worked for Intel around 2008 and they complained about how much other stuff people had to do that killed their productivity.
  • 10tacle
    bigdragon said:
    A lot of corporations expect this kind of uncompensated overtime. It's wrong. Everyone should be paid for their work...all of their work.

    Years ago I and my colleagues were dealt this when we worked for a tech company in the US that was bought out by a bigger tech firm. We were salaried but occasionally called in on a weekend day for an emergency or working 10-12hr days during a major hardware upgrade or building changeover. We never signed anything that advised we'd be working excess of 40 hours uncompensated including non-scheduled workdays (weekend, holidays).

    We seriously thought about suing for uncompensated overtime, but an associate's lawyer father advised against it. He stated it would have cost us a lot of money in legal fees and there was a good chance we'd net lose money from any overtime settlement over the legal fees and the law firm's settlement cut - a settlement that would not happen for years on top of that!
  • everettfsargent
    Love the hate going on here ... they took our jobs.
  • randyh121
    Admin said:
    Arizona union accuses TSMC of using fab equipment installation delays to bring in lower-paid foreign workers.

    AZ Union Fires Back at 'Offensive' TSMC Claims of Unskilled U.S. Workers : Read more
    Dude, as soon as they said "Unskilled" I knew what they meant.
    They do not want to pay people more than bare minimum. Horrible benefits, and a rigorous work environment. As a medium size business owner I see why people are avoiding working for them.
    Hey, TSMC. America is not asia where you can put 70 hour work days on people and pay them minimum wage.
    Hopefully regulators do something about them
  • nick4wheelin
    TSMC jumped all over that US government money! Then they say US workers aren't skilled knowing full well we build fabs and anything else that gets approval. They don't want to pay, plain and simple. Cheap labor isn't skilled. Skilled labor isn't cheap! They already knew the price of doing business in the US. Now they want to use the billions that the government is giving them through the chips act to take as much as they can back to Taiwan with them and bring in there "workers".
  • tamalero
    Are you guys surprised?
    Anyone remembers that take where the CEO of a big fab also said that you should expect to work for long hours and being "lazy" was not on the company's future or something like that?
  • Rokinamerica
    bigdragon said:
    A lot of corporations expect this kind of uncompensated overtime. It's wrong. Everyone should be paid for their work...all of their work.
    Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes this illegal except for very certain exemptions.