US factory accused of using child labor — Analysis

According to Reuters, dozens upon dozens of migrant kids as young as twelve worked in an Alabama metal stamping plant.

A vehicle part supplier for the South Korean carmaker Hyundai’s car assembly line in Montgomery, Alabama, was accused of using underage migrant labor in a damning Reuters investigation published on Friday, that cited the minors’ families, multiple factory employees and police sources.

Reuters heard from a former employee who said she was a past employee. “alongside about a dozen minors on her shift” over the past few years, before leaving the Hyundai subsidiary for another plant. One source claims that there were 50 undocumented workers in different shifts. Most of them were migrants, but some could be as young as 12.

The factory in the center of the scandal is an auto parts manufacturer in Luverne, SMART Alabama LLC, that produces stamped metal parts for Hyundai’s largest US-based assembly plant in nearby Montgomery.

This controversy was first brought to the forefront when 13-year old Guatemalan immigrant disappeared in February from Alabama. It triggered an Amber Alert. The child’s father, and two police officers that assisted in finding her told Reuters she had been working at the facility with her brothers (12 and 15 years old). In order to escape her Guatemalan-migrant father, the child ran off with her 21 year old friend. “look for other work opportunities.”

Think of the children, Washington

Amid the increased police and media attention to the girl’s disappearance, SMART is said to have fired all of its underage workers. Reuters’ investigation could not confirm the exact number of alleged child laborers, their terms of employment or working conditions. The local police claimed they did not have the authority to investigate violations of labor law, but informed the state attorney general about the claims.

Hyundai responded with a statement that said it was addressing the allegations. “does not tolerate illegal employment practices at any Hyundai entity,”Claiming the company “policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state and federal laws.” 

In turn, SMART denied “any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment,”It pointed the finger at staffing agencies that it depends on for jobs, and therefore expects to be able to take responsibility “to follow the law in recruiting, hiring, and placing workers on its premises.”

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