New Summer Work Travel rules vindicate Hershey’s student guestworkers

On May 2, 2012, the U.S. State Department released new rules for the J-1 visa Summer Work Travel program. Below is a statement on the new rules by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA):

“In August 2011, 400 students occupied the Hershey’s factory to expose how the chocolate giant hijacked a cultural exchange program to turn hundreds of permanent, local, living-wage jobs into sub-minumum wage, temporary jobs. Today Secretary Cinton has vindicated the student guestworkers by pushing back against Hershey’s and hundreds of corporations like it.

“We fully expect the corporate lobby to fight against these rules, because they are a step toward the protections that all workers need in America.

“Every time workers have stood up for basic dignity — and every time the Obama administration has taken steps to support them — corporations have fought them. Businesses have grown used to a profit formula based on shfiting the nature of work in the U.S. from permanent to temporary, from stable to precarious. Increasingly, they do that by eroding wages and conditions for U.S. workers, and treating guestworkers, including cultural exchange students, as the ultimate source of cheap, exploitable labor.

“These rules don’t include every protection that student guestworkers need, but they are a clear step toward ending the exploitation that Hershey’s exemplified. Guestworkers will be organizing all across the U.S. this summer — in the summer work travel program, the H-2B guestworker program, and beyond — to defend decent work and dignified conditions for all.”

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

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