A Dickensian scenario was playing out in America’s South: undocumented immigrant children, some as young as 12, working in dangerous factories building parts for two of the world’s most successful automakers: Hyundai and sister brand Kia. Initially prompted by the soaring number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border and ending up in rural Alabama, Reuters reporters Joshua Schneyer, Mica Rosenberg, and Kristina Cooke spent more than a year with many of the state’s rural immigrant communities and uncovered widespread abuses in a fast-growing local industry enabled by billions of dollars in tax incentives and lax labor laws. First, the reporters found that Alabama staffing agencies were hiring underage migrants and putting them to work in poultry slaughterhouses. Soon, they discovered agencies had also placed kids at SMART Alabama LLC, a parts maker owned by Hyundai. Children were working long hours, including graveyard shifts, in dangerous conditions. Some were racing to repay human smugglers who had brought them over the border, authorities and migrants said. As a result of the reporting, authorities quickly found and rescued kids from one factory, and employers released other children from similar jobs. Alabama and U.S. agencies launched at least 10 investigations into the hiring practices. A Hyundai supplier and its recruiter have been fined for violating child labor laws. And Hyundai has acknowledged the problem, pledged reforms to remove all child labor from its supply chain, and begun discussions with the U.S. Department of Labor about the violations.
Hillsborough County had the highest number of adult lead poisonings in all of Florida. Reporters from the Tampa Bay Times set out to discover why. They interviewed more than 100 current and former employees at a local battery recycling plant suspected to be the cause. Johnson, Woolington and Murray gathered over 100,000 pages of documents and hundreds of photos and videos from employees that showed the perilous conditions inside the factory. They even became certified lead inspectors as they exposed how the factory had contaminated the surrounding community. After the initial parts of the series ran, OSHA sent inspectors into the plant for the first time in five years, confirmed the Times’ reporting, and issued one of the steepest fines in recent Florida history. Local children were screened for lead, and county regulators increased monitoring and oversight of the company, which also saw its credit rating downgraded and was driven to improve its safety systems. The Times’ project was supported by PBS FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which provided partial funding and consultation.
Casualties of Peace
In this seven-part series, “Casualties of Peace,” Russell Carollo and Mei-Ling Hopgood examine problems in what is often looked upon as an almost sacred institution, the Peace Corps. Their investigation reveals, often in vivid detail, the widespread violence directed at Peace Corps volunteers, who since 1962 have died at a rate of about one every two months. The two also report on how the agency has responded to these incidents.
Dangerous Business: When Workers Die
The New York Times investigative series and Frontline documentary, “Dangerous Business,” found that hundreds of employers have killed their workers by willfully disregarding basic safety rules. Their work prompted a criminal investigation into safety and environmental records, leading to indictments, and to OSHA announcing steps to strengthen the oversight and punishment of persistent violators.
A Taste of Slavery
A special report on the investigation of labor abuses in West African cocoa plantations, the source of more than 40 percent of the American chocolate industry’s cocoa beans.
The series exposed a 50-year pattern of misconduct by the U.S. government and the American beryllium industry – wrongdoing that caused a chronic lung disease in dozens of workers producing the strategic metal. The articles sparked major safety reforms, numerous lawsuits, and two congressional investigations.
The compelling series on the international shipbreaking industry revealed the dangers posed to workers and the environment when discarded ships are dismantled.
Lost in America: Our Failed Immigration Policy
Lost in America was a 7-part investigative journalism series published in The Miami Herald that documented and uncovered the then Haitian and Cuban immigrant exodus into Miami and the country’s discriminatory immigration policies. The series exposed cases of illegal detention and mistreatment of the Haitian and Cuban refugees and the differential treatment immigrants from Cuba and Haiti were subjected to viz refugees from other nationalities.