A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala assembled auto body components, a 12-year-old child worked in a dangerous metal stamping shop, and dozens of other underage workers were found in at least four Hyundai and Kia supplier plants, according to a Reuters report published Friday.
The report details allegations at two supplier plants—Hwashin America Corp’s facility in Greenville, Alabama and Ajin Industrial Co in Cusseta, Alabama—where employees reported working alongside at least 10 children. Through spokespeople, the plants said they hadn’t, “to the best of our knowledge,” hired children to work in their facilities.
This summer, Reuters and the U.S. Department of Labor detailed allegations that children as young as 12 were working in other Hyundai/Kia supplier plants in Alabama. Since then, up to 10 other supplier plants have been investigated for child labor violations.
In the Reuters report, state and federal inspectors arrived unannounced at a supplier plant owned by Ajin in late August for a site inspection. As investigators arrived, workers fled out of the back of the plant before they could be questioned.
In a statement, Hyundai said it wouldn’t “tolerate violations of labor law.” Additionally, in October, Hyundai told the Montgomery Advertiser it would investigate reports at its suppliers and would sever relations with suppliers named in previous reports, including SL Alabama and SMART Alabama. In August, the U.S. Labor Department sued SL Alabama for employing children at its facility in Alexander City, Alabama, which makes headlights, taillights, and side mirrors for Hyundai and Kia, and fined the supplier $30,000 for violations.
Alabama and the U.S. prohibit factory work for children 16 years old or younger and assembly jobs or dangerous manufacturing work for children 18 years old or younger. In statements by Hyundai, Kia, and relevant suppliers, third-party staffing companies were largely blamed for hiring underage workers.
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