Group calls for putting an end to alleged use of child labor at Hyundai suppliers

A group made up of 24 regional and national labor, community, civil rights, faith and environmental justice groups are calling on Hyundai to ensure that child labor is not being used in any of its supplier plants, as reports of the practice are being investigated.

The Alabama Coalition for Community Benefits on Thursday sent a letter to Hyundai Motor North America CEO José Muñoz calling on the company and its suppliers to end “any and all abusive labor practices, including child labor.” It also calls for restitution to families, and revoking or limiting tax incentives to companies found to engage in exploitative practices.

“Alabama is a great state,” the letter reads. “But we are making national news because of corporations that profit at the expense of our most vulnerable people. Our communities deserve better.”

The letter comes in response to reports over the last two months of child labor being used in two auto supply plants affiliated with Hyundai.

Reuters reported that children as young as 12 have been recently employed at SMART Alabama in Luverne, which has supplied parts for Hyundai’s Montgomery plant since 2003. This led to a class action lawsuit against Hyundai filed in California following the Reuters report. The US Department of Labor and the Alabama Department of Labor are investigating the story.

The US Department of Labor last month accused SL Alabama of Alexander City with “employing oppressive child labor” in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a six-page complaint filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

In the two-page letter, the coalition calls for third-party monitoring to ensure all labor laws are being followed, as “two reports of child labor in one month suggest a widespread problem that needs to be investigated, with transparent reporting to the community .”

The group says that “using subcontractors to avoid the responsibility to provide a safe and legal work environment is incompatible with Hyundai’s own stated belief in its corporate responsibility to communities.”

Hyundai has denied the allegations, saying there is “no evidence that there is any proof to these allegations” and that it “does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity.”

The Coalition for Community Benefits includes Jobs to Move America, Alabama Arise, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Hometown Action, United Auto Workers, GASP, Central Alabama Labor Council, Black Lives Matter, Faith in Action Alabama, Poor People’s Campaign, Alabama Interfaith Power & Light , The People’s Justice Coalition, Communication Workers of America, Coosa Riverkeeper, Alabama Forward, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, IBEW, RWDSU, United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO, Alabama Sierra Club, NAACP Alabama State Conference and Alabama AFL-CIO.

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