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Arizona workers accuse TSMC of fatalities at 'dangerous' construction site

TSMC's headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan

Construction workers building TSMC's Arizona plant allege that it's the "most unsafe site," and accuse the chip maker of injuries, fatalities — and reneging on pay deals.

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) makes Apple's processors, and with the encouragement of the Biden Administration, has invested $40 billion in new plant facilities in Arizona. Most recently, TSMC drafted in more employees from Taiwan in what it said is a temporary addition to US staffing as it prepares to finish construction.

However, political publication The American Prospect visited the site and was told of mass safety concerns, as well as incidents of pay checks being denied, or issued for less than agreed. Writer Lee Harris also found that despite President Biden's announcement that the plant called Fab 21 was being built with union labor, the majority of workers are non-union.

"Many are international migrants and out-of-state workers," she writes. "The parking lot is full of Texas and Louisiana license plates."

Harris says that according to local labor representatives, at least two construction workers have died.

TSMC denies the report, saying there have been "zero work related fatalities," but multiple sources told Harris of one incident with a non-union worker taking a guard off a grinder. The grinder then cut into his femoral artery, and according Aaron Butler of the Arizona Building Trades Council, the man died from blood loss before medical help arrived.

Responding to The American Prospect, TSMC also claimed that its "safety and injury rates are significantly lower than the state and national benchmarks."

TSMC further said that its plant is "regularly audited against known safety standards by organizations such as the Arizona Department of Safety and Health (ADOSH)." That Arizona department said it had received no reports of fatalities, which firms are legally required to report.

However, Harris says that the procedure for such incidents involves filing reports with any of the hundreds of individual contractors on site. Workers told her directly of loads being dropped from cranes, and two employees falling through what were described as badly marked scaffolding.

One anonymous worker shared a video of fire consuming the side of a building.

"It's easily the most unsafe site I've ever walked on," Luke Kasper, of the SMART sheet metal workers union, told Harris. "I've been in the trades 17 years... everyone that works at the hall and out there on-site agrees that it's by far the most dangerous, unorganized job site they saw."

Reportedly, the giant majority of the 12,000 workers on site are not employed directly by TSMC, but rather by an assortment of agencies. One worker with such a staffing agency reported that she is repeatedly paid less than her agreed salary, and estimates that a quarter of her colleagues have had pay issues, including being denied paychecks entirely.

Separately, Taiwanese TSMC workers have previously claimed that American staff "are the most difficult to manage." The company is also objecting to how the USA's refusal to acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign state means it is effectively having to pay tax twice.