FOREIGN STUDENTS PAID UP TO $6,000 TO BE IN A U.S. SPONSORED CULTURAL-EXCHANGE PROGRAM, working at Hershey’s chocolate plant in Pennsylvania. Mandatory company housing costs left them with $40-$140 a week after 40 hours of work, and they were threatened with deportation if they complained. Yeah, that seem like a legit foreign cultural-exchange program IN AMERICA, doesn’t it? Corporations are people, too! From the LATimes:
The National Guestworker Alliance filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of 400 international students who had apparently paid $3,000 to $6,000 to participate in a U.S.-certified cultural exchange program. The complaint, sent to the U.S. Department of State, says the students were exploited by Hershey Co. and that the company takes unfair advantage of the program.
The students also launched a protest at the plant. Those protests were continuing Thursday, with the students, labor leaders and Pennsylvania workers who have joined the fight rallying in downtown Hershey, according to an email alert the alliance sent to The Times
The organization, which helped organize the protests, has dubbed their efforts the Justice at Hershey’s Campaign.
The students, who hail from countries such as China, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Mongolia, Ghana and Thailand, were recruited at their universities to participate in the U.S. State Department J-1 visa program, described on a U.S. State Department website as an Exchange Visitor Program. The program leads to a three-month visa that allows students to work in the United States while learning about American culture and improving their English skills.
The goal of the program, according to the State Department’s site, is to foster “global understanding through educational and cultural exchange.”
Instead, says a representative of the National Guestworker Alliance, students who wound up at the Hershey’s plant were living in “economic captivity,” forced to pay for mandatory company housing that left them with $40 to $140 a week for 40 hours of work.
“They were desperate and feeling isolated,” the organization’s communications director, Stephen Boykewich, said in an interview with The Times.
According to the complaint, conveniently made available to media, when the students complained about the violations of U.S. law, “they were threatened with deportation and other long term immigration consequences to remain quiet about the violations.”