Hyundai Subsidiary Factory in Alabama Busted Hiring Kids as Young as 12
Children’s lives today are already so stressful — dealing with the ups and downs of Covid, wearing masks, not wearing masks, worrying about whether they will be safe in their own classrooms, their schools struggling with right-wing oppression, and now it seems at least some children are being forced to deal all over again with a very unpleasant aspect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
That’s right. Some companies have resorted to using child labor. Again.
That’s what Reuters reported Friday. It appears that a subsidiary of the Hyundai Motor Co. used child labor at one plant that supplies for the Korea-based automaker’s assembly line in Montgomery, Alabama. Local police say the factory employed a family of three underaged workers as well as eight former and current employers.
How sad. At a time when these kids should be interacting with their friends or family, they are stuck in mind-numbing jobs.
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Some of these children are as young as 12, and have up until recently worked at SMART Alabama, LLC at a metal-stamping plant, those involved say. SMART is listed as a majority-owned unit by Hyundai in its corporate filings. It supplies parts for some of the company’s most popular cars and SUVs built by the automaker in Montgomery, Alabama, which is Hyundai’s U.S flagship plant, Reuters reports.
Hyundai issued a statement Friday saying that it “does not tolerate illegal employment practices at any Hyundai entity. We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws.” The company didn’t answer questions from Reuters pertaining to this story.
SMART also issued a statement saying it adheres to federal, state, and local laws and “denies any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment.” The company claims it uses temporary work agencies to fill jobs and requires “these agencies to follow the law in recruiting, hiring, and placing workers on its premises.”
Like Hyundai, SMART also didn’t answer questions regarding the workers mentioned in the story or anything specific regarding on-the-job scenes they and other people familiar with the goings-on described.
Reuters first found out about the use of underage workers at the Hyundai-owned supplier when it was reported that a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl disappeared from her family’s home in Alabama in February. The girl and her two brothers, aged 12 and 15, were all working at the plant this year and were not attending school, according to those familiar with the situation. Pedro Tzi, the children’s father, confirmed this to be true to Reuters.
Fortunately, police in the town of Enterprise, where the family lives, located the missing girl, and while they listed her name in a public alert, Reuters didn’t report her name because she is a minor.
Because police in Enterprise, located about 45 miles away from Luverne, where the plant is located, don’t have the jurisdiction to investigate labor-law violations, they referred the case to the state attorney general’s office, James Sanders, an Enterprise Police detective told Reuters.
But the good news is that Tzi’s kids are now enrolled for the upcoming school term. Sadly, however, they were part of a larger group of underage workers who worked at the plant over the years, according to interviews with several current and former employees and labor recruiters.
“Several of these minors, they said, have foregone schooling in order to work long shifts at the plant, a sprawling facility with a documented history of health and safety violations, including amputation hazards.”
“‘Consumers should be outraged,'” said David Michaels, the former U.S. assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety And Health Administration, or OSHA, with whom Reuters, with whom Reuters shared the findings of its reporting.”
“They should know that these cars are being, at least in part, by workers who are children and need to be in school rather than risking life and limb because their families are desperate for income,” he said.
Especially in view of the fact that the company plans to expand in the U.S. and has seeded over $5 billion in investments thatJa include a new electric car factory near Savannah, Georgia.
A successive series of child labor laws throughout the earlier part of the 20th century effectively put an end to most child labor practices but when I see what companies like Hyundai are doing and with the ongoing rise of fascism in the U.S. I fear the country is regressing.