Guatemalan migrant Eidy Aracely Tzi Coc indirectly led to the discovery of a major child labor plant in Alabama.
The 13-year-old girl went missing earlier this year after she fled with her 21-year-old co-worker, also from Guatemala, Alvaro Cucul. The Enterprise, Alabama Police Department responded to a February 3 call from her father, Pedro Tzi, who explained that she never came home that night. Authorities then discovered from Pedro that Eidy and her two brothers, aged 12 and 15, had all been working at SMART Alabama in Luverne, a Hyundai automotive parts supplier, and that they were not in school, contrary to Alabama law which requires all children under 17 to be enrolled.
So much to unpack here… A 13-year-old girl running away with a 21-year-old man, her and her young brothers not being in school, them all working at a factory… It’s so sad the conditions migrant children are put into just to survive.
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Upon discovering this news, authorities looked into SMART, where a former employee revealed that there were possibly up to 50 underage employees working at the plant, with some being as young as 12! Tabatha Moultry, 39, worked at SMART through 2019, and explained that the plant relied on migrant workers to meet their demands and that they had an extremely high turnover rate. She added she had worked alongside a girl that “looked 11 or 12 years old,” and later found her to be 13. Tabatha explained:
“She was way too young to be working in that plant, or any plant.”
That is absolutely insane! These poor children!
SMART, which is about 45 miles outside of Enterprise was technically out of jurisdiction for Enterprise authorities to investigate, so the case was handed over to the state attorney general, per Detective James Sanders. Mike Lewis, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office declined to comment on the situation. However Dave Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA explained:
“[Consumers] should know that these cars are being built, at least in part, by workers who are children and need to be in school rather than risking life and limb because their families are desperate for income.”
What a sad discovery… These children should be allowed to be children, but instead they are being exploited due to their migrant status! Despicable!
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The plant “denies any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment,” but have reportedly fired several underage workers as Eidy’s case was gaining more attention.
As for the missing teen, she was located 300 miles away from Enterprise in Athens, Georgia through cell phone geolocation data. She told authorities that Cucul was a friend and they were looking for more work. Cucul was arrested and deported. Eidy and her brothers are now enrolled for this upcoming fall term of school, to which her father explained:
“All that is over now. The kids aren’t working and in fall they will be in school.”
Over for Eidy maybe, but what about all the other kids? Actions need to be taken sooner rather than later. What do you think about SMART’s alleged exploitation of children for labor? Would you ever have expected this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
[Images via Enterprise Police Department & WKRG/YouTube]