Justice at Hershey’s hits Times Square – 8/31/11

New York, NY – Dozens of student workers who escaped captive labor at the Hershey’s packing plant this summer, together with nearly 100 allies from organized labor, held a rally at Hershey’s Times Square store on Wednesday, Aug. 31 to demand:

  • an end to Hershey’s exploitation of students on J-1 cultural exchange visas;
  • the return of the $3,000-6,000 each the students paid for false promises of a cultural exchange program; and
  • that the 400 jobs they filled become living wage jobs for local workers.

The students—who come from China, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, and other countries—organized with the help of the National Guestworker Alliance and held a walk-out and strike from the Hershey’s plant on Aug. 17.

Hershey’s has maintained a wall of silence since, while the students have collected more than 63,000 petition signatures from Americans supporting their demands. Four federal agencies have also launched investigations into exploitation of J-1 student workers at the Hershey’s plant.

The students and local supporters took their fight to Hershey’s Times Square store to break the company’s wall of silence. When a delegation of students attempted to enter the store to ask the manager to phone on their behalf, the doors were blocked by store security.

The students’ story goes right to the heart of the current debate over the sources of America’s jobs crisis. Decades of downsizing, outsourcing, and subcontracting by corporations like Hershey’s has robbed local workers of living wage jobs, while locking immigrant workers—and even cultural exchange students on J-1 visas—into situations of captive labor.

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, NGA Communications Director, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, 718-791-9162

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