Mitch Ellmauer, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
One week ago, 300 foreign student guestworkers walked off the job and staged a rally at a Hershey’s packaging warehouse in Pennsylvania. The International Labor Rights Forum has been asking Hershey to "raise the bar" for responsible cocoa sourcing and eliminate child labor in its cocoa, and the recent struggle of student guestworkers reveals that Hershey must do more to respect worker rights from bean to bar.
The students, who come from a number of countries including China, Nigeria, Poland, and Mongolia, thought they were signing up for a cultural exchange program when they were signing up for a cultural exchange program where they paid the Council for Educational Travel, U.S.A. $3,000 to $6,000 for a visa and a trip to the United States. The students were told that they would get to see the US, practice their English, and learn important career skills. Instead, they were sent to Hershey’s Eastern Distribution Center III to lift heavy boxes for as much as 60 hours a week, often during the night shift. The students were subject to threats and harassment by the warehouse managers; they were threatened with deportation if they spoke out about their conditions.