Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hershey's Kiss-off

Foreign students walk off Hershey’s factory job in protest

Hundreds of foreign students on a State Department cultural exchange visa program walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday.

The J-1 visa program brings foreign students to the country to work for two months and learn English, and was designed in part to fill seasonal tourism jobs at resorts and seaside towns. The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that makes Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place.
Hershey's excuse is that it doesn't operate the plant, but don't think that it wasn't part of the plan on how to exploit foreign workers & avoid hiring Americans. The plant was probably rushing to produce Halloween & Christmas candy so it could go back to one shift next month.

If you spend any time at Atlantic coast vacation towns during the summer, you encounter many  young foreign workers.  Are they exploited, too? Yeah, in a way, but really no different than local seasonal workers. The Jersey shore has a such a year-round economy now that local high school & college students no longer  depend entirely on hotels, motels, & the boardwalk for summer jobs but many still do.  It simply doesn't pay for young people from outside the shore to move there for the summer & work the boardwalk. It never did. But many still do.  They crowd into apartments too crappy & distant from the beach to   be rented to vacationers, work their shifts, party or hang out on the beach in their spare time. Working as a maid, waiting in restaurants, bar-tending  - jobs with gratuities - have the potential for good earnings. But for most it's a break-even or slightly ahead proposition.  I met a young Irish woman working in Wildwood's only used book store. It was her second year at the store. She didn't have a  tan. She was a night-clubber.

I don't know what bill-of-goods was sold to the workers at the Hershey plant, inducing them  to come to America & work in a factory.  A factory is a factory no matter where it is.  Workplace conditions are probably better  in America than in China  (I wouldn't swear to it for all factories, 'cause I don't know) but you still have to keep the product moving down the line.  We're already Europe's Third World workers, underpaid, non-unionized, poor   benefits compared to many European countries.  Yet, even that isn't enough for American companies. So they import  foreign  students from China & Turkey & Eastern Europe.

Dauphin County, where Hershey is located, has an official unemployment rate of 7.7%.

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