The Electrical Worker online
April 2023

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Bringing Chip Plants Back Home

Look around, and you'd probably struggle to count the number of microchips within arm's length. So many devices have them: not just computers, cars and smartphones, but headphones, charging cables and credit cards, to name a few. Chips are crucial for a stable and secure economy. But not many are made here anymore.

The U.S. still leads the world in designing and developing microchips. But bad trade deals over the last couple of decades made it too tempting for U.S.-based chipmakers to move their plants overseas. The supply-chain issues we've had here over the past few years show how bad those deals turned out to be, not to mention the loss of thousands of good union jobs for hardworking families.

That tide's turning, though, and the IBEW can take some credit. We were part of a coalition that lobbied hard to get Congress to pass the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act, a bill that, among other things, uses tax incentives and grants to encourage chipmakers to bring their plants back to the U.S.

Last summer, after President Joe Biden signed the act into law, major manufacturers couldn't wait to take advantage of the tax credits. They broke ground on plants all over the U.S. within months, and you've read here in The Electrical Worker how billions of CHIPS Act dollars have already been committed to building many of those plants, putting to work thousands of members of the IBEW and other union construction trades.

Just two of those projects, Intel in Ohio and Micron in New York, are projected to spend $100 billion each before every construction phase is complete. That's not including all the suppliers who'll pop up around those facilities to keep them running.

The Biden administration understood that some chipmakers might need a push to build plants here, so it included nearly $40 billion in grants to sweeten the deal. In February, it released details on how these businesses would have to treat both construction and manufacturing workers to be eligible for funding.

Most important, chipmakers that accept grant money will have to pay construction workers the prevailing wage on their building projects. They'll also be expected to use project labor agreements.

This month's newspaper contains many examples of how President Biden keeps demonstrating his solid commitment to unions and to all working people, whether it's by nominating Julie Su as labor secretary or choosing Washington, D.C., Local 26 for a major speech on the economy.

The CHIPS Act promises to bring good, long-term jobs for thousands of our members for decades. We need business managers and training centers to be ready to answer when manufacturers need highly skilled, highly trained electrical workers.

After decades of fighting losing battles as America's manufacturing shipped overseas, this is our chance to bring it back and reshape the American economy for working people. We can't let it pass us by.


Also: Noble: Julie Su: A Workers' Champion for Labor Secretary Read Noble's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President