Hershey Co. Exploits Cultural Exchange Students

Travel to exotic Palmyra, Pennsylvania, pay double market rate for a flophouse apartment and kill yourself lifting boxes in an outsourced chocolate factory

 

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Our motto is “Founded on Friendship”. We believe that the world becomes a smaller, friendlier place when we build bridges across cultures. This is why we offer a wide variety of quality programs that enable students from around the globe to work, study, travel, and receive professional training abroad.

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That’s the pitch on the flashy CETUSA website recruiting young college students from around the globe to work shit jobs in the US, on J-1 visas ostensibly for cultural exchange. In this case, CETUSA delivers the students to SHS Onsite Solutions, a temp agency furnishing workers to Exel North American Logistics Inc. The latter, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL, manages all the labor and operations at the big Hershey warehouse, packing and distribution center. The students pay around $3,000 to get into the program, then earn around $8 an hour, from which exorbitant rent and other fees are docked till they get down to somewhere between $140 and $40 PER WEEK of intense factory labor. Check out the video above, the article in the New York Times and the formal complaint they just sent to the State Department. This is not just a national disgrace and a bitter disappoointment for all these kids who came here to make friends and see what’s great about America. It’s also an extremely graphic lesson in the kind of flexible exploitation practiced by Hershey and the corporate order in general, not only on foreign nationals but also on US citizens. Neoliberal capitalism doesn’t just steal the money in your bank account through financial crises; it grinds the younger generations into the ground with abusive labor practices. It’s hard to believe that such complex and sophisticated systems exist just to earn a few pennies more through temp labor, while denying local inhabitants a better job with a decent wage.

Obviously all this is coming to light because of a new collaboration between the AFL-CIO, the SEIU and an organization called the National Guestworker Alliance, which was formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when guestworkers from around the world were kept in labor camps under unbearable conditions. Only this kind of organized protest can bring multinational corporations to account. Remember that Rosa Parks did not sit down in the bus by herself! She did it with immense personal courage as part of a vast and complex campaign to end racial discrimination. Today these kids from Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia are showing us how to fight back against a corporate system that exploits workers to the bone, impoverishing everyone both economically and culturally. It’s a chance for the unions to get back to real advocacy and it’s a school of solidarity across borders, against the transnational system. Let’s talk about it and let’s participate, to help these kinds of movements, to keep the big unions honest and to point beyond immediate goals, toward deep transformations of an unjust and unsustainable society. To see actions like this makes you realize that amidst the current crisis, the left can have a powerful future.

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