No ‘kisses’ for guest workers
Given that unemployment stubbornly has hovered around the 10 percent mark for a couple of years, it would seem that America has plenty of residents looking for work. Yet a protest last week by labor activists in Palmyra, Lebanon County, revealed a stunning practice – the use of foreign students as “guest workers” – cheap labor.
Dozens of students from Eastern Europe and Asia, working in a warehouse packaging Hershey’s candies for distribution, were recruited under the premise that they would have an opportunity to visit the United States and learn English. Each paid between $3,000 and $6,000 for that opportunity.
Some of the students told The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, that they worked 40-hour weeks in the warehouse but were left with between $40 and $140 after housing expenses were deducted from their pay.
The students were not directly employed by Hershey Foods or the logistics contractor that operated the warehouse. They were hired through a temp agency which, in turn, relied on the Council for Educational Travel USA. That group is described on its website as an organization that facilitates cultural exchanges. Among the processes involved in that was securing the appropriate U.S. visas for the guest workers.
That convoluted chain of hiring translates into one thing: cheap labor.
Congress should examine this case to determine just how deep the “guest worker” labor pool is. At a time of high unemployment, that pool should be shallow indeed.