Popular Car Brand Under Fire Over Alleged Child Labor Abuses in America

Underage workers as young as 12 have reportedly been caught working at a supply chain plant.
February 10, 2023
1 min read
Popular Car Brand Under Fire Over Alleged Child Labor Abuses in America
TY Lim / Shutterstock.com

If there’s one thing you can say about Alabama, it’s that the state isn’t afraid to put children to work. 

Reuters has been doing a series on child labor in the state, documenting numerous instances of children and teens working in factories.

This week, Korean car maker Hyundai finally copped to the findings of a Reuters investigation into child labor at a subsidiary plant that supplies parts for the company’s assembly line. 

The company said that it has been in touch with the U.S. Department of Labor amid an investigation into its subsidiary and other parts suppliers for potential child labor violations. 

“We share Congresswoman Sewell’s view that the use of child labor is unacceptable,” Hyundai said, according to the report. 

The congressperson the company is referring to is Terri Sewell (D-AL).

“I have made clear that the use of child labor is abhorrent and unacceptable, and that there must be accountability,” Sewell told Reuters, while also saying she would work with Hyundai and autoworkers in her state to make sure something like this never happens again. 

Hyundai Isn’t the Only Culprit

Hyundai isn’t the only company with manufacturing operations in Alabama that has been using child labor. 

Reuters documented a 16 year old Guatemalan immigrant who was working on chicken processing machines in Enterprise, Alabama to pay off the $10,000 she owed to smugglers who got her across the U.S. border. 

Last July, the news service reported underage workers as young as 12 have been working at a metal stamping plant called SMART that is listed by Hyundai in a corporate filing as a subsidiary. 

At first the company said that it “does not tolerate illegal employment practices” at any of its facilities. SMART said that it “denies any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible.”

But since then, Hyundai says it has visited or held talks with 29 supply plants across the state and has required them to submit to independent third-party audits of their operations to make sure that there are no minors working in the factories. 

Reuters has reported that once federal officials started investigating, staffing firms started firing “young-looking foreign workers” from its staff. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2021 says it intercepted more unaccompanied minors at the southern border, five times more than it did the previous year. 

Meanwhile Hyundai is expanding its presence in the U.S., breaking ground on a new $5.54 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in Georgia last year. 

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