Surely iconic American confectioner and dedicated philanthropist Milton S. Hershey is turning in his grave after hundreds of students enrolled in what they believed was a cultural exchange program staged a massive protest and walk-out yesterday at a Hershey Chocolate packaging facility in Palmyra, PA. According to this video, produced by the National Guestworker Alliance, the students, all of whom are participating in an international work-travel program on J-1 visas, say that instead of getting a taste for America, they were forced to pack Kit-Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for substandard wages. And when they raised concerns, they were threatened with deportation.
As if that’s not bad enough, the students, some of whom spent upwards of $6,000 to come to the U.S., say that fees automatically deducted from their checks for housing and other expenses, reduced their take-home pay to about $5 an hour. At that rate, many complain that they can’t recoup the money they spent to come to the U.S., let alone travel through it after the work portion of the program is complete.
According to the New York Times, Hershey denies any responsibility, and shifts the blame to an outside company that it contracts to run the Palmyra facility. That company, Exel, in turn hired the students from a staffing service, which recruited them from Council for Educational Travel USA.
National Guestworker Alliance has petitioned the State Department asking for the Council for Educational Travel USA to be removed from its list of J-1 sponsoring organizations.
Only in America.