News & Commentary

August 4, 2022

Anita Alem

Anita Alem is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: Hyundai and supplier factory face lawsuit following Reuters investigation revealing child labor in manufacturing, NLRB orders United Mine Workers of America to pay $13M for unlawful strike, NLRB dismisses charges against Starbucks union workers, and Reuters journalists plan to strike Thursday.

SMART, an auto manufacturing supplier for Hyundai, allegedly employs children as young as 12 in its Montgomery, Alabama facility according to a Reuters investigation as well as a recently filed federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of Hyundai vehicle owners. The Reuters investigation began when a fourteen year-old child, who is Guatemalan and whom Reuters referred to as a “migrant child,” briefly went missing and was later found. She and her 12 year-old and 15 year-old brothers all worked at the SMART factory. Several others have confirmed that SMART regularly exploits underage workers in a dangerous facility with potential amputation hazards. Hyundai and SMART have both denied the use of child labor, which is prohibited under Alabama law for children under the age of 16 in the manufacturing industiry. Both federal and state labor agencies are investigating the child labor reports. 

The NLRB has ordered mine workers in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, to pay upwards of $13M in fines to its employer, Warrior Met Coal Mining. The approximately 1,100 affected workers are organized under United Mine Workers of America and have been on strike for longer than one year. The union stated it would appeal the ruling for infringing on workers’ right to strike. 

Workers United achieved another win in organizing Starbucks workers recently, as the NLRB dismissed the charges that Starbucks filed alleging that union organizers in Phoenix intimidated workers and customers. Starbucks had alleged that organizers had blocked exits and entrances and intimidated and bullied workers in the charge, filed in April. The NLRB found there was not sufficient evidence to support the charge. While Starbucks has filed only two charges against the union to date, the union has filed more than 250 unfair labor practice charges against the company.

Finally, Bloomberg reported that nearly 300 Reuters journalists plan to strike on Thursday, August 4, for the first time in decades. The workers, organized under Communication Workers of America NewsGuild, are seeking more significant raises after Reuters offered only a 1% increase amid nearly 9% inflation rates. The strike will begin with a walkout, set to coincide with Reuters’ earnings call. The CWA has also filed an unfair labor practice charge against Reuters for failing to bargain in good faith.

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