Thu., May 31, 2012 4:03pm (EDT)

State Urges Dismissal of Kia Case
By Jeanne Bonner
Updated: 2 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
Georgia has filed its response to a lawsuit over hiring practices at Kia Motors' West Point car plant (in photo). In a court motion filed Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says workers who applied for a job at Kia had a privilege, not a right, to inspect records about how the state screened applicants for the plant.
Georgia has filed its response to a lawsuit over hiring practices at Kia Motors' West Point car plant (in photo). In a court motion filed Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says workers who applied for a job at Kia had a privilege, not a right, to inspect records about how the state screened applicants for the plant.
Georgia has filed its response to a lawsuit over hiring practices at Kia Motors' West Point car plant.

In a court motion filed Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says workers who applied for a job at Kia had a privilege, not a right, to inspect records about how the state screened applicants for the plant.

A spokeswoman for Olens declined comment.

Former union autoworkers are suing the state for not releasing records about the recruitment program it ran for Kia. The workers say the state helped Kia screen out union workers.

The state training facility was one incentive used to lure Kia here.

Plaintiffs also say that in March state lawmakers re-wrote a bill that retroactively blocks the documents’ release.

In the filing, the state argues that the Georgia Constitution allows legislators to enact retroactive laws, and they urge dismissal of the case. Next, a judge will decide whether to hold oral arguments or dismiss the case.

Kia has declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.

State technical college officials and Kia executives spent more than a year interviewing 10,000 people to staff the plant. The lawsuit says that at least 150 former union autoworkers applied. But Kia only hired one person with a union background.

It’s illegal to discriminate against anyone who’s a member of a union. The workers have filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which is pending.

In an interview earlier this month, Joel Friedman, a labor law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, said the fact that Kia hired almost no former union employees raises some red flags.

But some experts say it’s hard to prove that Kia discriminated against the workers because of their labor background. They say Asian auto manufacturers such as Kia often take a different approach than American carmakers, and the company might have wanted to train workers from the ground up.

The Kia plant produces about 360,000 cars a year and employs 3,000 people. It manufactures Kia's Optima model, among others.