In exclusive comments to Reuters last week, Hyundai COO Jose Munuz recently announced the Korean automaker is would cut off its connections to subsidiary suppliers in Alabama found to have used child labor and investigate the rest of its U.S. supply chain. In a response Friday, the United Auto Workers criticized the company’s decision to cut off the offending suppliers, saying the company is hurting innocent employees to save face and shirk responsibility.
“By severing ties with these Alabama suppliers, hundreds of workers in these plants will likely lose their jobs, creating a crisis for workers, their families, and their communities—without doing anything to fix the problem,” said UAW President Ray Curry, in a statement.
Additionally, Curry said, Hyundai should lose out on government subsidies and loans until it takes further steps to address the child-labor issue, including agreeing to a monitoring mechanism and establishing “highroad” workplace practices.
According to Munoz, Hyundai will also oversee hiring directly and “push” to stop using hiring agencies to source employees. Both Alabama factories blamed outside labor suppliers or temp agencies for hiring minors.
A group calling itself the Alabama Coalition for Community Benefits echoed some of Curry’s calls in a letter protesting the child labor to Munoz. In the letter, the ACCB—which includes the UAW, the United Steelworkers of America, the AFL-CIO, and the Alabama Sierra Club—called for independent community monitoring at the plants.
The situation at Hyundai’s Alabama suppliers began in July, when Reuters published an exclusive investigation into the company’s SMART Alabama LLC plant, accusing it of employing children as young as 12 at its metal stamping plant. About a month later, the Department of Labor sued a different Hyundai supplier in the state, SL Alabama LLC. Both companies blamed the hires on third-party hiring firms, and SMART Alabama claimed it did not knowingly use child labor.