by Michael Lawliss, Senior Policy Coordinator
At the end of February, the Biden administration took the first step in implementing the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS Act) by announcing the application process that commercial fabrication facilities will have to undergo to get federal money.
Signed into law this summer, the CHIPS Act represents a historic investment in American manufacturing. The act will invest nearly $40 billion to grow the domestic supply chain of semiconductors—which are essential components of electronic devices, including those that power clean energy and transportation.
Implementation of the CHIPS Act will help revitalize domestic manufacturing and fund important research and development. It will also serve as a test case for our nation’s industrial policy focused on green manufacturing, and how labor will be included in that conversation. At Jobs to Move America, we believe that strong labor standards should be an essential component of the Biden administration’s industrial policy. We are committed to ensuring the CHIPS Act creates good jobs, and that racial and gender equity are centered in the recruitment and hiring process for the projects funded through this legislation.
Here’s what we’re excited about in the application process:
- Applicants will be graded on plans for their manufacturing workforce. Previous Biden administration initiatives have focused on the construction workforce, so we love the focus on the manufacturing workforce here. Applicants will have to share their strategies for recruitment and training of workers, including those who face barriers to employment. They will also have to discuss how they plan to provide quality jobs, as defined by the Good Jobs Principles published by the Departments of Commerce and Labor.
- Applicants will have to provide detailed job quality data and make it available to the public. Applicants will also have to provide details on how they will measure, track, and publicly report their workforce commitments, recruitment and training plans, and other job quality metrics, including wages and benefits. Making job quality data and other commitments public is an important step to ensuring manufacturers are sticking to what they said they would do in their application.
- Applicants’ proposed workforce plans will become commitments in the contract. The final step to ensuring the CHIPS Act creates good jobs is making sure workforce commitments make it into the final contract between applicants and the government. Adding these commitments into the contract means that not living up to these commitments is a contract violation, which helps hold applicants accountable to their communities. The administration has promised to take measures to enforce the job quality commitments in the contract.
Rewarding companies who make strong commitments around job quality; requiring them to provide detailed, publicly available data around wages and benefits; and then holding them accountable to those commitments through the contract—these are the key elements of our policy tool, the U.S. Employment Plan. We’re thrilled that the administration has embraced these concepts and also believe that getting the details right is key for carrying it out.
And that’s not all—this notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) also includes some other big wins for workers, including a requirement that applicants submit a workforce plan for any construction work done in connection to the project. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to enter into project-labor agreements, which are pre-hire agreements signed between contracting agencies, labor unions, and private companies establishing the terms and conditions of a project ahead of time, such as wages and benefits paid to workers.
Additionally, applicants requesting more than $150 million in funding are required to provide childcare services for their construction and operations workforce, an important wraparound service that will support families around the country.
These policies represent a huge win for workers. However, we will need to continue working with stakeholders at all levels of government to ensure the 100,000 construction jobs and 90,000 operations jobs connected to this NOFO are good jobs, that the workforce development plans include achievable and enforceable commitments, and that future funding opportunities raise job quality standards across the country.