Hershey bar? No thanks

From CounterPunch:

What happened recently at the Hershey candy factory, in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, has to be considered one of the weirdest and most outrageous labor stories of the new year.

First the outrageous part. According to a story in the New York Times (February 21), Exel, the logistics company hired by Hershey to oversee its Palmyra operation, was found guilty by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) of intentionally failing to report 42 serious injuries in the plant over a period of four years. Those 42 accidents constituted 43-percent of all such injuries that occurred during that period…

… And now for the weird part. According to that NYT story, many of these employees were student workers here in the U.S. on an “international cultural exchange program,” recruited by SHS Staffing Solutions, the subcontractor hired by Exel (the contractor hired by Hershey), to man up the operation. Apparently, Exel was using hundreds of these foreign workers to do the heavy lifting.

Which raises several questions. For one thing, what sort of “international cultural exchange program” involves the participants doing manual labor in a factory? What is so “culturally beneficial” about heaving cases of Kit-Kat candy bars on the graveyard shift at a Hershey plant? And if it’s an “exchange” program, does this mean it’s a two-way street? Are an equal number of Americans traveling to foreign countries to do this kind of work? Are American students volunteering to spend summer vacations working in Ukrainian salt mines? If so, it’s the first we’ve heard of it…

5 thoughts on “Hershey bar? No thanks

  1. I long ago stopped buying Hershey products, in the past few years there were simply too many stories about their changing the formula for their various types of chocolate mainly to save on their costs which resulted in an inferior product. Last summer’s stories about the exchange students (who pay to be in the program) sealed it for me. I buy other chocolate, mainly English or Belgium products, even though the English imports are more expensive.

  2. I vaguely remember hearing about this on the radio some weeks ago (could it have been on NPR?). This makes me wonder: how many companies are exploiting this kind of “cultural exchange” programs? I know, for example, that ski resorts often hire foreign kids, and I remember one “This American Life” show that features a rest stop workers who were from abroad, too. Were they here legitimately, or just being exploited?

  3. grrljock — A number of resort areas hire foreign workers for their various seasons. I’ve read about the Cape Cod and Nantucket areas doing this because the foreign students or young adults have longer periods that they can work than the American students who have more restricted free periods without school.

  4. Let me rephrase… I’ve read about the Cape Cod and Nantucket areas doing this because the foreign students or young adults have longer periods that they can work without worrying about school than Americans who have shorter free periods.

    A student here legitimately can still be exploited, i.e. the exchange students working for Hershey. I’d imagine that there are other companies involved in the exchange program, we just happened to hear about how Hershey was exploiting the students they had.

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