Child Workers Found In Hyundai-Kia Parts Makers In Alabama
At least four major suppliers of Hyundai Motor Co and sister Kia Corp have employed child labor at Alabama factories in recent years, a Reuters investigation found, and state and federal agencies are probing whether kids have worked at as many as a half dozen additional manufacturers throughout the automakers’ supply chain in the US state, Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke and Joshua Schneyer reported.
Photo Insert: As many as 10 Alabama plants that supply parts to Hyundai or Kia have been investigated for child labor by various state and federal law enforcement or regulatory agencies.
At a plant owned by Hwashin America Corp, a supplier to the two car brands in the south Alabama town of Greenville, a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl worked this May assembling auto body components, according to interviews with her father and law enforcement officials.
At plants owned by Korean auto-parts maker Ajin Industrial Co, in the east Alabama town of Cusseta, a former production engineer told Reuters he worked with at least 10 minors. And six other ex-employees of Ajin said they, too, worked alongside multiple underage laborers.
In two separate statements sent by the same public relations firm, Hwashin and Ajin said their policies forbid the hiring of any worker not of legally employable age. Using identical language, both companies said they hadn’t, “to the best of our knowledge,” hired underage workers.
The employment of children at Hwashin and Ajin hasn’t been previously reported. The news follows a Reuters report in July that revealed the use of child workers, one as young as 12, by SMART Alabama LLC, a Hyundai subsidiary in the south Alabama town of Luverne.
In August, the U.S. Department of Labor said that SL Alabama LLC, another Hyundai supplier and a unit of South Korea’s SL Corp, employed underage workers, including a 13-year-old, at its factory in Alexander City.
Since then, as many as 10 Alabama plants that supply parts to Hyundai or Kia have been investigated for child labor by various state and federal law enforcement or regulatory agencies, according to two people familiar with the probes.
The investigations are being conducted across small towns and rural outposts where many of the suppliers and the job recruiters that staff them are located. It isn’t yet clear whether the probes will lead to criminal charges, fines or other penalties, the two people said.
On Aug. 22 a team of Labor Department and Alabama state inspectors arrived unannounced at one of Ajin’s plants, according to people familiar with the operation.
As the team arrived, workers rushed out the back and left the premises before they could be questioned, one of the inspectors told a meeting of Alabama’s anti-human trafficking task force last month, according to two people who attended. The inspection hasn’t previously been reported.