Labor and Community Organizations Urge Caution in CHIPS Act Award to Intel Call for Community Benefits Agreement to Protect Workers and Community

March 20, 2024

Intel's Pat Gelsinger tours an Intel facility in Chandler, Arizona. He is wearing a hard hat and safety vest. Another plant worker is near him and appears to be pointing at something.
Source: Intel Corp.

Washington, DC – CHIPS Communities United (CCU), a coalition of labor unions, environmental organizations, and community groups that includes Good Jobs First, is urging Intel Corporation, as a selected recipient of $8.5 billion in public funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, to follow through on their pledged commitment for responsible labor, environmental, and community practices. CCU advocates for a fair, equitable, and sustainable implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act.

Intel has not yet taken adequate steps to provide assurance that workers and communities in Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon will have a fair deal. While administration officials expect Intel to respect workers’ rights, the company has not signed an enforceable agreement to guarantee workers a fair and intimidation-free process to decide on union representation.

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, commented, “Workers in the auto industry know the importance of a strong semiconductor supply chain. We also know the importance of good jobs and a decent life. Intel needs to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, and that means signing a neutrality agreement. When a company promises to do something, but won’t sign an agreement, I think that tells you something about how much the company intends to keep its word.”

“Now that they’re in line to get billions of dollars in public money, it’s time for Intel to step up and do the right thing: sit down with workers and the community and show that you’re a responsible company,” said Carl Kennebrew, president of the industrial division of the Communication Workers of America, IUE-CWA, which represents workers at one of the only unionized chip factories in the country. CWA recently announced an agreement with a semiconductor company, Akash Systems, in Oakland, Calif. “We urge Intel to sign a community benefits agreement that protects the environment, respects community residents, and provides a voice for workers.”

Our coalition understands that without enforceable agreements, workers have no guarantees that their rights to organize will be respected.  That’s why we’re calling on Intel Corporation to negotiate enforceable CBAs with workers and residents in the communities where they’re planning to build or expand facilities: we want to make sure that the public investment in semiconductor companies like Intel results in healthier communities with family-sustaining jobs where workers have a voice on the job – not just big profits for companies.

When a company promises to do something, but won’t sign an agreement, I think that tells you something about how much the company intends to keep its word – United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain

The coalition urges Intel to commit to sustainable practices at its new and expanded factories, and take necessary action to protect the environment and local communities. “For 30 years, communities across the country have watched as bad trade policies sent jobs overseas–at a terrible cost to workers and the environment,” said Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Investing in the clean energy supply chain by bringing semiconductor production back to the U.S. could be an investment in good jobs and in communities that have suffered for decades. But for this vision to become reality, companies like Intel — which are receiving huge public investments — must guarantee labor, public health, and environmental protections to workers and communities.”

Residents of Silicon Valley have known since the 1970s that the semiconductor industry is a toxic chemical-handling industry that has caused serious illnesses to workers, their children, and surrounding communities. Mandy Hawes, founder of Safe Jobs Healthy Families, called on Intel “to commit in writing to use state-of-the-art measures to protect women workers of child-bearing age from preventable miscarriages and birth defects which have plagued chip workers in the U.S. and around the world.”

In Ohio, where Intel is building a new $20 billion chip factory, residents have expressed concerns about the project. Members of Clean Air and Water for Alexandria and St. Albans Township sent a letter to Intel earlier this month, detailing the community’s concerns with the planned facility in New Albany and requesting a meeting to negotiate a CBA that protects the environment, keeps workers and the community safe from harmful toxins, and guarantees workers a fair process to organize a union. Intel has not responded.

Jennifer Baer, a baker in Alexandria, Ohio, whose concern about Intel led her to help found the local Clean Air and Water group, worries about the factory’s impact on her community. “The whole process has been shrouded in secrecy. People are outraged that our federal and state governments can take our money and invest it in a private company, then refuse to tell us what they’re going to do with it and what its impact will be,” she says. Baer’s group is particularly worried about Intel’s demand for water. Well testing for Intel dried up private wells, and she fears the plant’s water use could pollute the local aquifer.

In Oregon, residents have long-standing concerns about Intel’s effect on air quality. “Intel’s planned expansion in Oregon will make it the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the state and add significantly to already high background levels of one of the most dangerous pollutants in the region: PM 2.5.” said Mary Peveto, founder and executive director of Neighbors for Clean Air in Portland. “We are worried about the consequences. Just last year, the company accidentally turned off its air pollution mitigation equipment for two months before anyone noticed. If Intel is receiving billions from the federal government, we want to make sure the company protects neighbors and school children. We want better accountability, continuous emissions monitors, and a commitment to reduce, not increase, hazardous air pollutants.”

People living near Intel’s factory in Rio Rancho, N.M., echoed these concerns. “For decades, neighbors of Intel’s Rio Rancho facility have experienced strong odors, sore throats, headaches, respiratory problems, illness, and unexplained cancers,” said Dennis O’Mara, co-chair of Clean Air for All Now! “We hope Intel will use some of their new billions to protect public health and reduce emissions of hazardous substances.”

“Arizona workers are excited about the possibility of thousands of new jobs at Intel. We just need to make sure that the jobs will pay well and workers will have the opportunity to join a union, if they want,” said Martha Reyes, organizer with Arizona Jobs with Justice, a community-based organization. “In exchange for our tax dollars, we have the right to demand that the company creates good jobs for our community.”

Jobs to Move America, another partner in the coalition, has extensive experience with community benefits agreements. “JMA has negotiated multiple successful community benefits agreements in green manufacturing and has seen the impact that these agreements have on workers and the communities they live in,” said Erica Iheme, co-executive director of Jobs to Move America. “We believe that these are crucial to ensure that the benefits that come with federal investments truly flow to workers and communities.”