Foreign Students Protest Treatment At Hershey’s Factory


Welcome to America! It sounded like the perfect summer job. Four hundred students from China, Africa and eastern Europe would work in a Hershey’s chocolate packing plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, before using their earnings to travel the US and learn English.

It turned out to be not as sweet as they hoped.

Students Exploited By Hershey’s, Says Complaint

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.

Shifts, often at night, consisted of lifting dozens of heavy boxes, trying to control fast-moving production lines, they said.
“They don’t care if you are small, you don’t have the power, you didn’t eat – they just care about their production,” one of the students said.

From The Los Angeles Times:

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.

Students Threatened With Deportation When They Complained

According to the complaint, 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.”

Hershey’s reputation is not doing so well these days. I wrote here, back in June, about the large crowds gathered in  New York City to protest Hershey’s use of child labor in West Africa.

And now there is this protest by over 400 foreign students.

Take Action

Click here to sign our petition urging the U.S. State Department to deal fairly with the students’ complaint.

Related Story

Hundreds Tell Hershey’s To Stop Making Child Labor Chocolate

Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer via Creative Commons


iii q.
g d c5 years ago

Hope S says it best!

iii q.
g d c5 years ago


Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

it's disgusting how companies exploit their employees.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

And right they are!

alicia m.
alicia m6 years ago

signed and in there is another petition


Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Little off the topic but when I saved this thread to my favorites, this was the description....

"Student Workers Protest The Hershey Treatment | Care2 Causes"

Deborah L.
Deborah L6 years ago

I have signed a petition for this before from I do not buy their product and several years ago they said they were going to close their plant in Pa. Looks like they didn't but I still will not use anything they make. As for their claim of paying American workers 18-30$/hr. ,I do not believe it and they are paying these exchange students $8/hr when minimum wage is $7.25. And American workers are lucky to get min, now-a-days.

The same thing was going on in the hotel/motel business, which I worked in for about 5 years. They ring in illegal workers and temp workers from South America claiming that Americas will not work in their business for $12-$18/hr. That is correct. At that time min. wage was $3.35/hr and that was the highest American workers were paid to clean these rooms, so why the were the imported workers paid so much more in the 1980's ?

As for these students having to pay for "company housing" reminds me of that Tennessee Ernie Ford song from the 50's, "16 tons."

Looks like the corps have it all planned out. Bring in foreign workers along with some American workers to exploit, lower wages for employees and force them into company everything thus making you a slave to the corporation and then they will lower the hourly wages even more and charge the slaves(workers) inflated prices for everything you need to live and you will create a whole world of indentured servants forever.

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Hope S. I can agree with that, why did these "affluent" students need to work to see America, couldn't they just come here on vacation? That being said, it is still not right to exploit people unfairly.

Kenneth Ferenchak

Why did I sign the petition? Well, of course - it's true that these students have been exploited. But, no more than too great a number of American workers are being abused so that their Company CEO's can pocket millions. I happen to remember Unions though they have become a historic item. I've worked like a slave with no appreciation for my labor. So what's new? It's quite seriously time to fight for worker's rights on all fronts!

Past Member 6 years ago

Patrick, Hershey's does not own the NY Times and the article I referred to was one that was named inside one of the articles you suggested that I read -- which I did. Seeing as there are multiple viewpoints on this whole thing, each person has to make up their own mind about how they personally feel about it. I'll keep watching and listening to hear what more comes out about it from as neutral parties as possible (which I consider the NY Times to be relative to some other sources). For now I guess it's safe to say I have my perceptions and you have yours.