It’s been 50 years since the original Selma-to-Montgomery marches in Alabama, but on Thursday a group of Selma autoworkers, local community leaders and representatives from national civil rights organizations re-created the iconic trek to Montgomery, this time marching to the Hyundai corporate offices there to demand better conditions in the company’s supply chain.
The workers, demanding an end to economic injustice that they say still faces black workers in Selma, attempted to hand-deliver a letter to managers at Hyundai, the sole customer of one of Selma’s largest employers, Renosol Seating. The letter demanded livable wages and additional protection for workers at the plant. However, it went undelivered because marchers were kicked out by security.
“I work hard all day making foam for Hyundai car seats, but Hyundai refuses to take responsibility for the fact that we are getting sick and struggling on low wages at its supplier plants like Renosol,” said Kim King, who has worked at Renosol Seating’s Selma plant for more than nine years and makes only a little more than $12 an hour, according to a press release. “Hyundai has the power—and the responsibility—to make sure that the jobs it supports pay decent wages and do not put our health at risk. And until the company listens, our movement will only grow stronger.”
King makes foam for Hyundai vehicles and has developed chronic asthma and bronchitis, for which she uses an inhaler and nasal spray daily. Those costs come out of her own pocket, as do regular hospital trips for her respiratory problems, the release noted.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the plant in December for multiple violations of federal and health safety laws.
“As the delegation’s march today illustrates, Selma is more than just a symbol of change. Faced with widespread poverty and limited opportunity, autoworkers in Selma are carrying on the struggle started by civil rights leaders 50 years ago by joining together to demand good jobs and a shot at the middle class, and I am proud to support them today,” a Selma Baptist minister, Camella Hollaway, who marched with the delegation, said.