by Dan Gibson
I've had trouble with mass-produced chocolate for awhile, ever since I heard a presentation about the extent that child slavery is a part of cocoa harvesting in West Africa, but Hershey is apparently trying to scare me away from the delicious stuff forever:
For 400 foreign students, working at a Hershey's chocolate packing plant in Palmyra, Pa., may be less sweet than it sounds.
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, 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.
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."