Hyundai is planning to end relationships with two Alabama-based suppliers over alleged violations involving child labor, according to Reuters. Smart Alabama and SL Alabama are the subjects of an investigation by the Alabama Department of Labor, following a report detailing children as young as 12 working in a manufacturing environment.
The claims of alleged child labor surfaced in July, focusing on Smart Alabama LLC in Luverne. The facility manufactures parts for the Elantra, Sonata, and Santa Fe, and supplies parts to Hyundai’s large manufacturing plant in Montgomery. In corporate filings, Hyundai lists Smart Alabama LLC as majority owned. A second supplier, SL Alabama LLC, also came under investigation for workers as young as 13. Alabama labor laws require factory workers to be at least 18 years old.
Hyundai Global Chief Operating Officer Jose Munoz told Reuters on October 19 that the automaker planned to end relationships with the suppliers as soon as possible, though a specific timeframe wasn’t given. Munoz also indicated that Hyundai was executing a broader investigation throughout its US-based supply chain to ensure compliance will labor laws.
When reports of potential child labor first surfaced in July, a Hyundai spokesperson offered this statement to Motor1.com:
Hyundai does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity. We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws.
As for the suppliers, Reuters reports that both relied on outside staffing companies to recruit and hire employees. SL Alabama has reportedly ended a relationship with one firm and hired a law firm to conduct an audit. Smart Alabama has thus far been silent regarding the alleged violations.
The controversy began in February when Reuters learned of a 13-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl that briefly went missing from her home in Alabama. An interview with the family revealed that she, along with two brothers aged 12 and 15, had worked at Smart Alabama LLC. Subsequent interviews with current and former workers at the plant pointed to as many as 50 underage employees working various shifts.
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