A vehicle part supplier for the South Korean carmaker Hyundai’s car assembly line in Montgomery, Alabama, was accused of using underage migrant labor in a damning Reuters investigation published on Friday, that cited the minors’ families, multiple factory employees and police sources.
One former employee told Reuters she had worked “alongside about a dozen minors on her shift” over the past few years, before leaving the Hyundai subsidiary for another plant. Another source claimed there might have been as many as 50 underage workers across different shifts, mostly migrants and some as young as 12.
The factory at the center of the scandal is an auto parts manufacturer in Luverne, SMART Alabama LLC, that produces stamped metal parts for Hyundai’s largest US-based assembly plant in nearby Montgomery.
The controversy first came to light when a 13-year-old Guatemalan migrant child disappeared from her family’s home in Alabama back in February, triggering an Amber alert. Her father and police officers who helped find the child told Reuters that she and her two brothers, aged 12 and 15, had all worked at the plant. It turned out the girl ran away with a 21yo colleague, also a Guatemalan migrant who had since been deported, in order to “look for other work opportunities.”