Category: Justice at Hershey’s

In August, 2011, NGA launched the Justice at Hershey’s campaign with 400 students from around the world who came to the U.S. for a cultural exchange and found themselves captive workers at the Hershey’s packing plant.
NGA supported the workers in their organizing and connected them with PA workers and organized labor.
The students’ demands:

– End Hershey’s exploitation of student guestworkers
– Give living wage jobs to local workers

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 14, 2012—As the latest victory in a year-long fight by the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) against supply chain labor abuse, warehouse operator Exel Logistics agreed with the Department of Labor (DOL) on Wednesday to new worker protections for Exel’s more than 300 U.S. warehouses.

Exel, which has $4.1 billion in annual revenue, operates warehouses for major U.S. retailers including Wal-Mart and Hershey’s. Wal-Mart is facing growing pressure and nationwide strikes over supply chain labor abuses as Black Friday approaches.

The DOL agreement came in response to a strike and legal complaints by the NGA over serious labor abuses in a Hershey’s Chocolate packing plant in summer 2011. In previous response to the NGA complaints, the U.S. State Department debarred Hershey’s labor recruiter CETUSA from the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, and overhauled J-1 program rules to add substantial protections for student guestworkers.

The new DOL agreement requires Exel, staffing agency SHS, and labor recruiter CETUSA to pay back $213,000 in illegal deductions from wages to student guestworkers who worked in the Hershey’s plant. It also requires Exel to pay $143,000 in fines for health and safety violations.

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Dan Rather Reports’ powerful piece on Hershey’s corporate greed and the student guestworkers who stood up against it — and stood up for local workers and unemployed folks.


Watch the full report via iTunes.

The NGA published a commentary on corporate abuse of guestworker programs in the English-language and Chinese-language editions of China’s People’s Daily.

From U.S. Corporations, A Chain of Exploitation

By Jennifer J. Rosenbaum and Julie Mao

August 21, 2012

(Chinese-language version below)

Every year, thousands of students from China come to the United States to take part in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, along with tens of thousands of other students from around the world. These student guestworkers are promised a cultural exchange: the chance to meet Americans, practice their English, and experience American culture. Instead, many of them have become low-wage laborers for U.S. corporations.

How has this been possible? Because U.S. corporations have grown so powerful—and so unaccountable—that they were able to turn a cultural exchange program into a source of cheap, exploitable labor. And when human rights abuses like these are exposed, the corporations shift blame down their supply chains, hiding behind layers of suppliers and subcontractors.

A case in point is the Hershey’s Chocolate Company. Last summer, 400 university students from China, Mongolia, Thailand, Ukraine, and other countries paid $3,000-6,000 to take part in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When they arrived in the United States, the students found themselves packing chocolates for Hershey’s under brutal conditions. They performed backbreaking work in round-the-clock shifts for as little as $1 an hour after deductions. They were offered no cultural exchange of any kind. When they raised concerns, supervisors responded with threats of firing and deportation.

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Foreign students enjoy new summer job protections — but what about Americans?

By , Published: May 22

Across the Washington area last week, young workers from Europe arrived in droves, heading for jobs at community swimming pools. Lugging duffel bags, they filled out forms, picked up safety gear and chatted in a variety of Slavic languages, eager to plunge into a summer experience of new friends, skills and culture.

“Now I can meet many people and see America,” gushed Anzhala Scherbina, 21, a petite student from Ukraine whose family spent $3,000 so she could fly here and enter a U.S.-sponsored work-travel program. “My parents say this will be a very good experience,” she said with a giggle.

The Obama administration is going to great lengths to make sure Scherbina and about 100,000 other foreign student workers are not disappointed. Last summer, the popular program, aimed at creating good will abroad, was rocked by scandal when students working at a candy warehouse in Pennsylvania staged a protest, complaining of isolation and overwork.

On May 11, the State Department issued rules that ban foreign students from jobs that could be harmful, limited them to light, seasonal occupations that are not likely to displace U.S. workers and required closer scrutiny of their conditions.

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New Rules on US Summer Jobs for Foreign Students

Voice of America

May 31, 2012

[DOWNLOAD MP3 of audio broadcast]
This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

More than one hundred thousand international students will spend this summer working and traveling in the United States. They are participating in the Summer Work Travel program through the State Department. They receive J-1 exchange visitor visas.

The idea is for students to work for up to three months and earn enough money to then spend a month traveling before they return home.

The Summer Work Travel program has existed for years. This year there are some changes. The State Department recently amended the employment rules. These changes follow a strike last summer by foreign students working at a distribution center for Hershey’s chocolates.

The State Department said the students were put to work for long hours in jobs that provided little or no contact with the outside world. The students complained about having to lift heavy boxes and to work overnight.

They and other workers protested conditions at the plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. The students also complained about being underpaid as a result of deductions from their earnings. Some of their pay had to go to subcontractors involved in the operations.

The State Department has now banned the use of Summer Work Travel students in warehouses or packaging plants. Also, the majority of their work hours cannot fall between ten at night and six in the morning. The students are also barred from jobs in workplaces that the federal Labor Department says are unsafe.

More jobs will be banned in the fall. These include most construction, manufacturing and food processing jobs. Summer Work Travel students will also not be allowed to work in most mining and agricultural jobs.

Daniel Costa at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington welcomed the new limits on jobs that the students can fill.

DANIEL COSTA:  “That is good because it will protect the actual foreign workers from getting injured on the job. It also protects U.S. workers, because there is high unemployment in a lot of those occupations.”

He also praised a requirement that employers only fill temporary or seasonal jobs with Summer Work Travel students. He noted that some employers have continually hired new student workers to avoid having to hire regular full-time employees.

Jacob Horwitz is lead organizer for the National Guestworker Alliance, the group that organized the strike in Palmyra.

JACOB HORWITZ: “The changes to the J-1 rules really recognize the demands that the students put forward, and both add a whole set of protections and changes that protect local workers who work in industries that use guest workers and also protect future J-1 students.”

He says the State Department’s changes will help return the program to its original purpose as a cultural exchange program.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Jim Tedder.

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/rules-summer-jobs-foreign-students-us/1145413.html


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