The UAW is saddened and disgusted to read new reports of child labor at Hyundai and Kia suppliers in Alabama. This is further evidence of a deeply broken system at Hyundai and Kia. From years of experience in the auto industry, we know that automakers exert tremendous control over their suppliers and responsibility for this behavior points back to Hyundai and KIA who are using parts made with child labor. Clearly the initial instances that were brought to light in July and August of this year did not prompt the automakers to ensure that the parts they are receiving are free of child labor.
Not surprisingly, this is not the only allegation of abuse against Hyundai and Kia. They or their suppliers are facing lawsuits alleging racial and gender discrimination and exploiting professional workers from Mexico here on TN (nonimmigrant NAFTA professional) visas, and violating the terms of the visas by forcing them into low-paid production jobs. The picture emerging is of low-road labor practices in search of cheap labor at all costs. This hurts the workers being exploited but it also hurts workers throughout the industry whose standing and bargaining power is undercut by these illegal practices.
Despite all of this, the Biden Administration is considering special exemptions for the company and Disney announced that Hyundai is a sponsor of its 100th anniversary celebration. How is it that we have come to care so little about violating worker rights, and to care so little about putting children to work in dangerous manufacturing jobs? This must stop.
We urge the Department of Labor and the Biden Administration to redouble their efforts to fix the abusive, exploitive practices at Hyundai and Kia. We also call for strong labor standards to be attached to all taxpayer funds used for the benefit of companies. Specifically, no special exemptions to the Inflation Reduction Act should be extended to Hyundai and Kia for their electric vehicles. Their facilities should not be granted local, state or federal assistance under any programs and monies already granted should be clawed back.
The solution to this problem goes well beyond the important investigation the Department of Labor seems to be conducting. The UAW has joined over 20 community and labor groups in Alabama have called on Hyundai to allow for third party monitoring of their factories and suppliers and to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the community that would ensure high-road job standards at Hyundai and their suppliers.
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