Hyundai and Alabama’s Kia suppliers really love child labor

Hyundai logo on a building

picture: Buy Zoom / Contributor (Getty Images)

back in July, Reuters Word spread that SMART Alabama, a Hyundai-owned supplier, was Employing working children up to the age of 12. The following month, the US Department of Labor charged a second supplier, SL Alabama LLC, with also using child labor. today, Reuters Post another report Which claims that the child labor issue between Hyundai and Kia suppliers is worse than we previously knew.

according to ReutersAt least four suppliers in Alabama have used child labor in recent years. Both state and federal agencies are reportedly investigating up to half a dozen other suppliers for the same thing. Hwashin America Corp. is accused of employing a 14-year-old girl at its Greenville, Alabama, plant. Reuters They worked with at least 10 minors. This claim has been supported by six former Ajin employees.

Since the initial report in July, Reuters He says up to 10 suppliers have been investigated for using child labour. But sources say they still don’t know if those investigations will lead to any charges or fines. Ajin said she would “cooperate fully” with the investigations, and both Ajin and Huaxin claimed that, “to the best of our knowledge,” they employed no children.

When asked for suspension, Hyundai said Reuters It “does not condone or tolerate labor law violations.” Meanwhile, Kia said it “strongly condemns any practice of child labor and does not tolerate any illegal or unethical workplace practices internally or within our business partners and suppliers.”

After news broke that the SMART and SL were using child labour, Jose Muñoz, Hyundai’s COO, said: Reuters that their purchasing department would cease doing business with these suppliers “as soon as possible”. He also pledged to investigate all other suppliers and to stop using third-party staffing agencies whose suppliers regularly use them to find workers.

However, this still appears to be true. Hyundai said recently Reuters that it had changed its mind about dealing with SMART and SL, claiming it had taken “corrective action” and fired the employment agencies that supplied child labor. Hyundai said that “additional oversight is a better course at this time than cutting ties with these suppliers”.

for precedent Reuters Report In depth explanation How Alabama employment agencies actively recruit undocumented immigrants, including children without parents or guardians, to work in chicken processing plants. As with these workers, Reuters It found that at least some of the children hired by Hyundai suppliers used false identities and documents and that recruiters were sometimes involved. Human trafficking authorities are also investigating.

during the investigation, Reuters “He interviewed more than 100 current and former factory workers and managers, recruiters, state and federal officials, and more. The reporters spent weeks around auto parts plants in rural Alabama and reviewed thousands of pages of court records, company documents, police reports, and other records.”

According to several current and former employees, the pressure on suppliers to deliver materials without delays or facing large fines became more severe when the pandemic hit, causing shortages of labor and supplies. And when there’s a lot of money at stake, a lot of companies are willing to cut corners and break laws to find enough workers. Many work experts Reuters We talked to basically describe work violations as inevitable.

“It looks like the stage is set for this to happen,” said Terry Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project in the Work and Work Life Program at Harvard Law School. Plants in remote rural areas. An area with low union density. There is not enough regulatory enforcement. Use of recruitment agencies.

“When you have workers who are desperate for jobs and aren’t empowered and you have a lot of competition, you often see a race to the bottom,” said Jordan Barab, OSHA’s former deputy assistant secretary of state.

In August, S. to. Violating child labor laws that require a person to be at least 16 years old to work in a factory at all, and prohibiting anyone under 18 from working in what the Department of Labor describes as “dangerous professionWhen the Department of Labor investigated SL, it reportedly found “seven workers, ages 13 to 16, on the factory floor at SL.”

But the fines the recruitment agency and staffing agency faced amounted to about $36,000, which is basically nothing. SL said Reuters I fired the staffing agency and fired the now ex-head of the factory.

The entire report is incredibly long and in-depth but well worth the read.

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