Pelosi touts chip legislation at UAW visit: 'We feel very confident' in bill's passage

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Taylor — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers on Friday heard directly from United Auto Workers members about the damaging effects of the global semiconductor shortage — and they urged Congress to take action.

"We're ready. Invest in us. Pass the bill," said James Bell, president of UAW Local 1284.

Bell was one of several local and international UAW officials who on Friday spoke with Pelosi, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and members of Michigan's congressional delegation about the chip shortage during a roundtable at UAW Region 1A headquarters on Telegraph Road. U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Andy Levin and Haley Stevens were among the participants.

UAW President Local 900 Dwayne Walker talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi after a roundtable discussion with UAW workers about the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage.

The event highlighted the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors, or CHIPS Act, which would provide $52 billion in direct subsidies to boost domestic chip production. The bill also would establish a 25% manufacturing tax credit.

Various attempts at securing funding for domestic chip manufacturing have moved slowly through Congress for more than a year. The effort recently has taken on a renewed sense of urgency as Congress approaches its August recess and then an election in the fall. Pelosi said Friday she hopes to send the bill to President Joe Biden sometime next week.

Domestic chip manufacturing has emerged as a priority for the automotive and electronics industries, as well as lawmakers, amid a shortage that has cost the auto industry billions of dollars in lost revenue and curtailed production of millions of vehicles. The shortage has caused vehicle inventory shortages and driven up prices for consumers, contributing to the decades-high inflation the U.S. is now facing. 

Automakers and semiconductor manufacturers have lobbied for the legislation's passage. Just this week, Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley and Intel Corp. CEO Pat Gelsinger co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging legislators to pass the bill.

"Without intervention, shortages of chips — including the legacy chips widely used in the auto, medical-device and defense industries — are expected to persist as investment in the U.S. stalls," they wrote. "This legislation is vital to many American industries, including ours, that have dealt with significant disruptions."

The chip shortage's contribution to inflation was a theme of Friday's discussion, with some UAW officials noting that the effects of the shortage have gone well beyond curtailing hours and paychecks for their members.

“We’re doing this not only for the autoworkers … but we’re doing this for the whole country, because it’s a great contributor to inflation," said UAW Local 600 President Bernie Ricke.

Local UAW leaders also noted the impact on consumers who are unable to purchase vehicles they need to get to work. And Bell said the shortage has made his members' work at a research and development facility difficult because they're having a hard time getting vehicles to test.

"Shortages cause layoffs, reduce our hours for UAW rank-and-file members and hurt families and their communities that rely on these industries for their economic livelihood," said UAW President Ray Curry.

Pelosi expressed confidence that the legislation would pass both chambers of Congress next week. The Senate this week voted to advance the legislation for a final vote, which is likely to take place early next week. The bill then will go to the House, where Pelosi said she expects it to pass.

"We were told the other side might whip against it, but we're finding out that maybe not," she said. "We feel very confident. ... Coming from the airport, I was told that we had some important Republican support on the House side. We have the bipartisanship of this bill.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi after a roundtable discussion with UAW workers about the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage at UAW Region 1A in Taylor, Michigan on July 22, 2022.

Earlier Friday, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow touted the legislation at an event at automotive supplier Lear Corp. in Southfield.

"This is moving. This is actually going to happen," said Stabenow, who touted the potential of the bill to bring down costs and create "hundreds of thousands" of new jobs.

Peters also tied the bill's passage to inflation saying the CHIPS Act will "bring in more competition, secure supply chains, which will keep costs in line — something that we need to do right now."

Meanwhile, Pelosi vowed to bring what she heard Friday back to her colleagues in Washington, D.C.: "This is an all-American, patriotic issue. And we have to make sure that it's done right and that it has the oversight to make sure it lives up to what the president had as his vision.”

Twitter: @JGrzelewski