Foreign Students on Summer Visas Protest Work at US Company

Posted August 18th, 2011 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of students who came to the United States for a cultural exchange program are alleging that the program has amounted to a little more than working in strenuous jobs for low wages.

The students, from countries including China, Ukraine and Turkey, this week walked off the job with chocolate maker Hershey in the eastern state of Pennsylvania.

The students say they paid thousands of dollars to travel to the United States and be a part of the State Department's summer visa program to work and experience life in the U.S. But they say they ended up doing heavy labor in a fast-moving warehouse production line instead, with little money left over after rent is deducted.

Hershey, which makes a number of popular candies including chocolate bars and Hershey's Kisses, said it does not directly operate the packing plant where the students work, but it expects all its vendors to treat employees fairly. The company that operates the plant, Exel, said it contracts with a staffing agency for temporary employees, and is not involved with the students in the J-1 visa program.