Representatives from Hyundai Motor Company told media that the company is working with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to address an investigation that uncovered underage workers at factories that belonged to some of its suppliers.

The investigation, by Reuters, claims several major suppliers of Hyundai and Kia employed underaged workers, and federal and state law enforcement are investigating as many as six more. Reuters interviewed over 100 current and former factory employees, labor recruiters, state and federal officials, and others and reviewed thousands of pages of public records in its reporting.

The report even accused Hwashin America Corp of Greenville of hiring a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl to assemble auto body components.

Two Hyundai suppliers, SMART Alabama LLC and SL Alabama, have already been accused of using underaged workers. The U.S. Department of Labor has already charged SL with child labor law violations.

Hyundai announced its intention to drop the suppliers in October but is now backing away from its statements.

Hyundai said SMART and SL have taken “corrective actions” against the staffing agencies they were using.

Hyundai officials told Reuters on Wednesday that it had held a series of discussions with the DOL focusing on “compliance measures across our supply chain.” 

The officials also said that Hyundai would create new training programs for employees, start thoroughly validating identification documents for applicants, establish anonymous tip hotlines and discourage third-party staffing agencies.

The DOL declined Reuters’s request to comment. 

Alabama lawmakers pushed for Hyundai to come to Alabama in the 1990s and early 2000s, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives. Former Alabama Governor and convicted felon Don Siegelman dubbed it “the biggest economic development project in the history of Alabama.” In 2018, Alabama offered Hyundai $59 million in incentives for an expansion project projected to cost almost $400 million.

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