"Let's not waste this historic moment," the lead sentence in a Hyundai Motor America release said, dated June 19, 2020, marking the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth.

In that statement, Hyundai touted its commitment to "progress for humanity" as a core value, which also happened to be the name of a hashtag campaign accompanying many of the posts on the numerous South Korean-based automaker's social media accounts.

"Our company is committed to America's highest ideals: transparency, fairness and honesty," Hyundai Motor America proclaimed. "We believe in equality, equity and social justice. Most importantly, we believe in finding solutions. We invite all people of goodwill to work together for a better tomorrow. Together, we can make this moment an opportunity to advance the cause of freedom, justice and human dignity."

Last month, SMART Alabama LLC, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company, was accused of using child labor at its Luverne facility, according to a Reuters report.

According to the report, three children of Guatemalan migrants, ages 12, 13 and 15, had worked at the Luverne facility. The family lived in Enterprise, and the children were not enrolled in school.

Initially, SMART denied the allegations in a statement. However, in a separate statement to Reuters, SMART denied "knowingly" employing anyone ineligible for employment, noting it relied on temporary work agencies to fill jobs.

A few days after the Reuters report was published, the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) confirmed it was investigating those allegations to AL.com's William Thornton.

The ADOL told Thornton the law stated that the presence of any person under 18 years of age in any restricted business establishment or restricted occupation was "prima facie evidence of employment."

"That means that regardless of whomever was paying the minor, the presence of the minor alone is all that needed to establish that they are an employee," the statement from ADOL to AL.com said. "They were at the SMART factory. They are a SMART employee as far as Alabama Child Labor Law is concerned."

On its website, Hyundai Motor America touts its commitment to driving toward better solutions in the name of "diversity and inclusion" and lists donations the automaker has made to organizations in the name of "creating lasting and sustained" change in society.

"At Hyundai, we don't run from a crisis; we take action," the site states. "The urgency of the current events speak squarely to our core values. We pain for those we've lost, and we champion those of goodwill, who seek to drive positive change. We know diversity makes all of us—work, live and perform—better. We relish our role as an advocate for human rights."

Hyundai began manufacturing automobiles outside Montgomery in 2003.

A year earlier, Hyundai announced it was building the facility after beating out a Kentucky location under the leadership of then-Gov. Don Siegelman. The deal to bring Hyundai to Alabama included a $118.5 million incentive package.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.

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