Dozens of migrant children as young as 12 worked at a metal stamping plant in Alabama, according to Reuters.
A supplier of auto parts for South Korean automaker Hyundai’s car assembly line in Montgomery, Alabama, was accused of using underage migrant workers in a damning Reuters investigation published Friday. In which the families of the minors, several factory employees and police sources were quoted.
A former employee told Reuters he had worked. “With about a dozen minors in his shift.” In the past few years, before leaving the Hyundai subsidiary for another plant. Another source claimed that there were more than 50 underage workers on different shifts, mostly immigrants and some as young as 12 years old.
The factory at the center of the scandal is auto parts maker SMART Alabama LLC in Luverne, which produces stamped metal parts for Hyundai’s largest U.S. assembly plant in nearby Montgomery.
The controversy first came to light when a 13-year-old Guatemalan immigrant child went missing from his family’s home in Alabama in February, triggering an Amber Alert. Her father and police officers who helped search for the child told Reuters that she and her two brothers, aged 12 and 15, all worked at the plant. It turned out the girl had eloped with a 21-year-old accomplice, also a Guatemalan immigrant who was later deported. “Look for other work opportunities.”
Amid increased police and media attention to the girl’s disappearance, SMART is said to have fired all of its youth workers. A Reuters investigation could not confirm the exact number of alleged child laborers, their terms of employment or working conditions. Local police reportedly said they had no jurisdiction to investigate labor law violations, but reported the allegations to the state attorney general’s office.
Hyundai responded to the damning allegations with a statement. “No Hyundai company tolerates illegal employment practices,” And the company claims. “Policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state and federal laws.”
In turn, SMART refused. “Any allegation that he knowingly employed a person who is unfit for employment,” And pointed the finger at the staffing agencies it relies on to fill jobs and thus expectations. “Following the law in recruiting, hiring and keeping workers on its premises.”
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