Hershey, PA—After six weeks of mounting national pressure on Hershey’s for exploiting J-1 student workers and depriving local workers of living wage jobs, former student workers at the Hershey’s packing plant have organized a 1,000-strong march in Hershey for justice and jobs on Friday, Sep. 23 at 12:45 p.m.
The students—who paid $3,000-6,000 each to come to the U.S. for a cultural exchange and instead became captive labors at Hershey’s packing plant—organized and became members of the National Guestworker Alliance. With support from Central PA residents and organized labor, the students held a walk-out and strike from the Hershey’s plant on Aug. 17.
Four federal agencies launched investigations into the exploitation of J-1 student workers at the Hershey’s plant, and nearly 70,000 Americans signed a petition in support of the students’ demands: 1) return the $3,000-6,000 students paid for false promises of a cultural exchange, and 2) turn the 400 jobs they filled in the Hershey’s packing plant into living wage jobs for local workers.
Hershey’s maintained a wall of silence, hoping that when the students returned to their home countries at the end of the summer, the pressure would end. Instead, the students organized hundreds of local workers and labor leaders into a growing fight for living wage jobs—including Friday’s 1,000-strong march.
As the march neared, Hershey’s launched a PR campaign to attempt to discredit the students, and hired Blank Rome Government Relations to lobby Congress on “government affairs issues related to labor practices.”
The Hershey’s story goes to the heart of the current debate over the sources of America's jobs crisis. Decades of downsizing, outsourcing, and subcontracting by corporations like Hershey’s has robbed local workers of living wage jobs, while locking immigrant workers—and even cultural exchange students on J-1 visas—into situations of captive labor.
The National Guestworker Alliance is a membership organization of guestworkers engaging in workplace fights across many industries to win dignified conditions, just migration policy, and new rights and protections for all workers.
WHERE: Corner of Homestead Rd. and Chocolate Ave. (Rt. 422), Hershey, PA 17033