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Groups demand Hyundai raise standards after child labor scandals, worker death

Labor and community leaders from two states called on Hyundai America CEO José Muñoz to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement.


In response to growing concern about Hyundai’s impact on local communities, labor and community leaders joined across two states to call on Hyundai Motor America CEO José Muñoz to negotiate a binding Community Benefits Agreement that ensures safe, family-wage jobs while addressing local community needs, at Hyundai and Kia, and in their supply chains.

Among the groups calling for change are the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Alabama Arise, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Alabama Forward, Coosa Riverkeeper, Faith in Action Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Central Alabama Labor Council, Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Alabama Interfaith Power and Light and more.

The groups said in a letter to Muñoz that the agreement would help build lasting prosperity for local communities in places like Bryan County Georgia, the site of Hyundai’s new “metaplant,” where the poverty rate is nearly double the national average. 

The letter comes in the wake of alarming reports of child labor, including at a Hyundai subsidiary in Alabama that employed children as young as 12 years old, the death of a construction worker at the metaplant site in Georgia, and other workers’ rights violations committed by Hyundai suppliers in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. Department of Labor is currently conducting investigations into two Hyundai suppliers for child labor exploitation. 

Of further concern, Hyundai is accepting billions of dollars in state and federal tax incentives to expand U.S. operations without providing any binding commitment on adhering to workers’ basic rights. 

The letter states: “Hyundai will ultimately employ more than 30,000 workers in the US, directly or through joint venture partners with its plants in Alabama and Georgia. Hyundai also has a vast supply chain that includes more than 60 plants and many more workers in both states. These facilities will transform our communities, and we are faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that this transformation is for the best. We are deeply concerned about Hyundai’s recent track record with child labor in its supply chain in the US; allegations of immigrant rights abuses and racial discrimination against suppliers; use of prison labor by suppliers, and retention of an irresponsible contractor in the building of the metaplant.”

“Taking advantage of children and placing them in harm’s way must stop, and as a coalition partner, we will continue to fight until this practice ends,” said Scott Douglas, Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries in Birmingham, AL. “A Community Benefits Agreement can be the structure for real solutions to the problem.” 

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With Hyundai set to receive $1.8 billion in incentives to expand a metaplant in Georgia that will employ thousands of workers, it’s all the more important that the company agrees to a Community Benefits Agreement now so that community civil rights, labor and other leaders can work with the company to address its deeply concerning track record of workers’ rights abuses in its supply chain. 

“Governor Kemp has given Hyundai the biggest subsidy ever to an automaker, $1.8 billion dollars of Georgian’s tax dollars, with nearly no strings attached. This is a company with a terrible track record of labor abuses in its supply chain, including a worker who died on the construction site of its metaplant,” said Yvonne Brooks, President of the Georgia AFL-CIO. 

“Community Benefits is about making sure these jobs are safe, and that every Georgia community can share in the prosperity these investments can create for families. We are asking Hyundai to come to the table and work with us on programs like apprenticeships that can provide pathways into good paying jobs for Georgians.” 

“It is our hard work, our time, our efforts, our skills, that have made Hyundai the number three automaker in the world,” said former Hyundai production worker Carmen Paschal. “But while they rake in more and more profit, they cut more and more corners, even using suppliers that employ staffing agencies known for illegally using child labor. We need to sit down with this company and work out a better way of doing business that respects working people and uplifts our community, not drags us backwards and drives standards down.” Paschal was a production worker at Hyundai but recently quit after 17 years of employment due to the unpredictable scheduling that kept her away from her family. 

The letter, which calls for Hyundai CEO Muñoz to meet with coalition in the next few weeks to discuss a Community Benefits Agreement that would ultimately boost the company and the communities it serves, closes by asking that the company works with community groups to ensure a commitment to high-road jobs that will benefit the states of Alabama and Georgia for years to come. 

The coalition will be uplifting this message to Hyundai in several labor day events in Alabama and Georgia, which will feature colorful banners and leafleting to focus attention on labor abuses in Hyundai’s supply chain, and will continue to engage communities in both states to demand Hyundai come to the table with community leaders.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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