Hundreds of Foreign Exchange Students Walk off Job at Hershey’s Candy Warehouse

Friday, August 26, 2011
After paying several thousand dollars just to get there, students from around the world have been spending their summer in Central Pennsylvania, packaging Hershey’s candies for low wages and long hours. They came to the U.S. on the promise of experiencing cultural sites and events, but after getting none of that, hundreds of students walked off the job.
The U.S. government is now investigating claims that the students were exploited, and the Hershey Co. has a public relations problem on its hands. Regular employees of Hershey’s earn $18 an hour. The foreign students were taking home between $7.85 and $8.35 per hour. Hershey CEO David West took home $7.5 million last year.
The students wound up in Palmyra, Lebanon County, thanks to two outsourcing companies, Exel North American Logistics Inc. and SHS OnSite Solutions, which operate the Hershey warehouse, and a nonprofit group, the Council for Educational Travel (CETUSA), which sponsors foreign students.
One student worker, Harika Ozer of Turkey, told the media some students want their money back, since all “we have here is work, sleep, eat. They did not offer us any cultural things.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division have opened separate investigations into conditions at the Hershey warehouse. The State Department also may interview the students.
Meanwhile, the organizations responsible for employing the students have tried placating them by offering a week’s paid vacation and cultural-enhancing day trips to Philadelphia, Amish country, and Gettysburg.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
U.S. Checks Conditions for Workers in Walkout (by Julia Preston, New York Times)


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