Faculty and Legal Scholars Visit Hershey, Pa; Call for
Thorough Investigation of Abuses in Student Guestworker
A human rights delegation comprised of professors and
practitioners has issued a report calling on federal and
state agencies to investigate allegations of abuse of
international students employed by the Hershey Company and
some of its subcontractors.
The delegation included Colleen P. Breslin of Villanova
University School of Law, Tsedeye Gebreselassie of the
National Employment Law Project, Stephanie Luce of the
Murphy Institute/City University of New York, Beth Lyon of
Villanova University School of Law, and University of
Pennsylvania Law School Professor Sarah Paoletti. Fran
Ansley of the University of Tennessee College of Law and
William Quigley of Loyola University New Orleans College of
Law contributed to the report.
The delegation heard testimony from students from countries
such as China, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Mongolia, Romania,
and Poland, alleging that they were misled regarding the
living and working conditions they would encounter in the
United States' Summer Student Travel/Work Program. The
program, often referred to as the J-1 program, promised
students an educational and cultural exchange, plus the
opportunity to work in order to earn money to travel.
Students testified that they worked packing in jobs
chocolates at punishing speeds under abusive supervision in
physically grueling work, and that - after deductions were
taken for housing and other employment-related costs -
netted them a first week's salary as low as $20 for the
"We are supposed to be here for cultural exchange and
education, but we are just cheap laborers," said Harika
Duygu Ozer, 19, a second-year medical student from Turkey.
Students have demanded that Hershey end their use of student
J-1 workers at the plant and make the jobs living wage jobs
for local workers. Students also demand a return of the
$3,000 to $6,000 each they paid to participate in the
The group interviewed staff at the National Guestworker
Alliance, which has been working with the students, as well
as labor union leaders in the region.
Delegates investigated paystubs which showed students were
charged $400 per month for housing, despite being made to
share small one bedroom apartments with up to five other
students who were also charged the same amount.
A student from Poland testified, "I was told this was all
average - the wage was average, the housing cost was
average. I was shocked when I learned that I was paying so
much more than the others for housing."
The Delegation has issued a report detailing their
preliminary findings and call for an in-depth investigation
into conditions at the Hershey plant, as well as the J-1 and
other guestworker programs.
The report offers recommendations for a response to the
Hershey incident, including an immediate suspension of all
contracts with the Council for Educational Travel, USA,
increased monitoring of J-1 programs and an examination of
guestworker programs in general.
The full report is available from the Murphy Institute,
School for Professional Studies, at the City University of
New York: www.workered.org
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