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As child labor scandal grows, Hyundai provides details of a crackdown on suppliers

Various investigations have found numerous child workers at Hyundai suppliers all over Alabama.


Hyundai has told the Department of Labor that it will implement new safeguards, including discouraging the use of third-party staffing agencies, in an effort to resolve concerns about child labor within plants in Hyundai’s supply chain, according to a report from Reuters. 

The report follows months of turmoil at the automaker, whose American headquarters is in Montgomery, after it was discovered that numerous children had been employed by Hyundai suppliers. 

Reuters reported last week that a Hyundai spokesperson said that the company has held “a series of talks” with the Labor Department. The talks, the spokesperson said, focused on compliance issues. In addition to cutting ties with staffing agencies, which Hyundai officials and company officials at the supplier companies blamed for employing child workers, Hyundai said it would implement a tip line and expand efforts to verify identification documents for workers. 

The Labor Department and the Alabama Department of Labor each declined to comment specifically on the ongoing talks. However, each agency slapped fines on supplier SL Alabama after a DOL investigation found that the company employed children as young as 13 in its plant.

In addition to Labor officials, Hyundai executives have also been engaged in conversations with Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, whose district includes the Hyundai plant. 

“I have made clear that the use of child labor is abhorrent and unacceptable, and that there must be accountability,” Sewell told Reuters in a statement. She also said she was monitoring the talks between the Labor Departments and Hyundai to ensure that the compliance implemented will be enough to prevent a similar incident in the future. 

A Hyundai spokesperson told Reuters that the company agrees with Sewell that child labor is “unacceptable.”

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A Reuters report in July touched off what has become a widespread child labor investigation involving at least 10 auto supplier plants across Alabama. That original report detailed troubling allegations involving a number of children being employed at a Hyundai-owned supplier, SMART Alabama. 

In August, Labor officials investigating other suppliers raided SL Alabama and removed children workers from the plant floor. Those violations resulted in fines. 

Another Reuters report in December included first-hand accounts of child labor occurring in multiple plants across Alabama. 

Hyundai told Reuters that it has held talks with 29 suppliers in the state and has required each of them to submit independent audits of employment rolls.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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