Hershey Walkout Prompts Probe by U.S. State Department

Foreign students working at a Hershey’s Chocolates plant in Palmyra, PA protested conditions and wages Thursday, complaining of hard physical labor, steep pay deductions for rent that often left them with little spending money, and no cultural enrichment.

“All we can do is work and sleep,’’ said Godwin Efobi, 26, a Ukrainian student originally from Nigeria.

In addition to the protests, the National Guestworker Alliance filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of the 400 international students who had apparently paid $3,000 to $6,000 to participate in the J1 student visa program – a U.S.-certified cultural exchange program that allows students to work in the United States for three months while learning about American culture and improving their English skills.

In the complaint, sent to the U.S. Department of State, the students – coming from countries such as China, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Mongolia, Ghana and Thailand – say they were exploited by Hershey Co. but that overall blame rests on the shoulders of the Council for Educational Travel, U.S.A. — the company that manages their J-1 visa program for the State Department.

The students, who protested with a bullhorn, leaflets, and a petition they planned to present to Hershey executives, claim their initial complaints were met with threats of deportation, which prompted them to seek outside help.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday confirmed it sent officials to Hershey to probe the allegations.

Hear from some of the students involved in the Hershey walkout by watching the following video provided by the National Guestworker Alliance:

via LA Times