Kia's West Point assembly plant
ATLANTA -- When Kia motors started staffing its auto assembly plant in West Point, it was welcome news for jobseekers. And the plant showed a willingness to train workers like Tim Durden, who had worked previously as an airline purchasing agent.
"My wife and myself were hired with no automotive experience," Durden said. Durden says he got a non-union job on Kia's assembly line.
The new jobs at Kia represented a turnaround for Georgia, a state still smarting from the closing of two auto assembly plants just a few years earlier. Thousands of union jobs disappeared when Ford closed its Hapeville plant in 2006 -- and General Motors closed its Doraville plant two years later.
Durden's son Scott had worked in Hapeville, and Durden says he applied three times at Kia. But despite the ease with which he and his wife were hired, Durden said his son couldn't even get Kia to acknowledge his application. Durden says his son listed his auto assembly experience on his application.
Following Scott Durden's third application, "I stopped a manager and asked him if he could please double check on Scott('s application), and see why he hasn't been interviewed. And that's when (the manager) asked me, 'Where did he work?' And I told him the Ford plant in Hapeville. And he told me, that was a union shop. And they would not hire him."
Attorneys who have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claim that union auto workers who lost jobs in Doraville and Hapeville have been systematically shut out from jobs at Kia, a company that hews to a strongly non-union culture.
"It makes no sense that you would bypass these two plants that closed and hire individuals who had no experience," said Atlanta attorney Jim Fagan, who filed the complaint.
Fagan says it's unlawful for a company to decline to hire an applicant because they'd previously belonged to a labor union. "In response to the charges that we've filed, (Kia has) identified one hourly person" with auto assembly-line experience who has been hired at it West Point plant.
"People that were hired, they hung wallpaper, they worked at Kroger, they were bag boys, they were plumbers, unemployed electricians. But I could not find an hourly Ford worker," said Durden, who retired from Kia after working there less than a year.
A Kia spokeswoman declined to comment on the complaint or its hiring practices.