BREAKING NEWS*****SMART Alabama severs ties with staffing agency, Best Practices Solutions; Hyundai investigates child labor claims against SMART, SL Alabama

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, October 20, 2022

Hyundai parts supplier SMART Alabama confirmed Tuesday they have ended business relations with the third-party staffing agency Best Practices Solutions after claims surfaced alleging the agency employed underaged workers for the plant earlier this year.

“SMART has ended our business with Best Practices Solutions,” affirmed SMART General Manager Gary Sport. “We are moving forward with plans to hire locally and going on with business as usual.”

Auto giant Hyundai Motor America also confirmed on Oct. 20 that SMART has severed all ties with the staffing agency. 

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“Smart Alabama has severed all ties with the third-party staffing agency, Best Practices Solutions, who provided the alleged underage employee that was the subject of prior media reports,” said Ira Gabriel, Senior Group Manager in Hyundai’s Corporate and Marketing PR department.

Gabriel said Hyundai is working with authorities in their inquiry and is investigating allegations against two Alabama parts suppliers for the auto manufacturer’s Montgomery plant who are accused of using child labor.

“Our investigation remains ongoing, and we have adopted more stringent policies to ensure compliance with all labor laws” he explained.

“Hyundai does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity,” Gabriel affirmed. “Hyundai is committed to its suppliers who comply with the longstanding federal, state, and local labor laws and will not hesitate to move to sever its relationship with any supplier found violating our stringent policies.”

Gabriel issued the statement after a Wednesday Reuters report announced Hyundai will ‘sever relations’ with SMART Alabama and SL Alabama. According to the report, Global Chief Operating Officer Jose Munoz said relations would be severed “as soon as possible” and the auto giant would investigate throughout its U.S. supply chain to determine whether labor laws were indeed being violated.

All this comes on the heels of accusations, which surfaced in a July 2022 Reuters report, alleging SMART Alabama, a Korean-owned subsidiary of Hyundai, employed children as young as 12 at their metal stamping plant in Luverne.

The Reuters report followed a brief disappearance in February 2022 of a Guatemalan migrant child from her home in Enterprise. The report described children who allegedly worked at the plant in early 2022 instead of attending school, including the missing girl, 13, and her two brothers, 12 and 15.

According to the Reuters report, the children’s father, Pedro Tzi, confirmed the allegations. In July, Luverne Police Chief Mike Johnson told Luverne Journal reporter Christy Johnson that the Reuters report was the first he had heard of the allegations.

Neither Hyundai nor SMART Alabama has confirmed whether Hyundai will ‘sever relations’ as the Reuters report claims. Representatives from SMART Alabama were not available to comment.