The ongoing TSMC US chip plant battle continues to rage, over the company’s plans to bring in hundreds of Taiwanese workers to speed up construction. The plant is slated to make chips for older Apple devices.
The latest development has seen a popular Taiwanese YouTube channel accuse US workers of laziness, with anti-American insults also posted to a local Facebook group …
The story so far
This whole thing was supposed to be a win-win. The US CHIPS Act successfully persuades TSMC to build a chipmaking plant in Arizona, and it makes chips for Apple devices (albeit only older ones). TSMC gets a chunk of cash to subsidize a new plant; Apple gets positive press for buying US-made chips; and jobs are created for US workers.
None of which is going well. TSMC wants bigger subsidies, and fewer rules. The project is behind schedule, and over budget, with production already pushed into 2025, from 2024. There is talk of US-made chips costing more than those made in Taiwan, which would mean Apple would likely buy only a token number of them.
Finally, US job creation has been brought into question as TSMC wants to bring in around 500 Taiwanese workers to speed up construction work. American unions are naturally unhappy about this, and are petitioning for Taiwanese worker visas to be denied.
TSMC US chip plant battle deteriorates even further
As if all that weren’t bad enough, the whole controversy now appears to be creating bad blood between American and Taiwanese citizens.
A popular Taiwanese YouTube channel, with almost 3 million subscribers (about 12% of the country’s population), has run a piece accusing American workers of being lazy, and incapable of building the plant.
The video – entitled “Can a photo ruin TSMC?” – features a photo claiming to be a US worker at the plant sitting down on the ground and scrolling through his phone. While the implication is that he is slacking off from work, there is no way to know whether the photo is genuine, and if so, whether the worker is on the clock or on a break.
US electrical worker group IBEW 650 has also posted what are said to be screengrabs from a popular Taiwanese forum, featuring anti-American insults against US workers.
One IBEW 650 member claims to have worked on the project, but left because of “chaotic and unsafe” conditions. It has previously been reported that multiple, serious accidents have taken place, with a fake active shooter drill used to cover up an evacuation for a dangerous gas leak.
There is no easy way to tell fact from fiction in any of the competing claims. One thing is certain, however: What was intended to be good PR for all involved – the US government, TSMC, and Apple – is rapidly turning into a PR nightmare.
Apple holds a lot of sway with TSMC for obvious reasons; if I were Tim Cook, I think I’d be sending in my best troubleshooters and negotiators to try to help sort out the mess before things get even worse.
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