Hershey walkout: Foreign students nix firms' offer
Hershey walkout takes new twist as firms offer cultural tour of US to 400 foreign student workers. But Hershey walkout leaders reject offer, saying the real issue is too much work for too little pay.
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More than 100 students demonstrated in downtown Hershey on Thursday, chanting and holding signs that described themselves as slaves and captive workers and targeted The Hershey Co. in particular. Exel is aHershey vendor, and SHS supplies workers to Exel.Skip to next paragraph
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One protester, Yana Brenzey, a 19-year-old journalism student from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, said she said she had no idea that she would be lifting 40-pound boxes or netting only about $200 a week when she began working in early May at the warehouse run by Exel.
Other students who took part in this week's protest are from China, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and Turkey. The students say they want their jobs converted into family-sustaining work for the local community and want the companies involved in hiring them to negotiate over returning some of their costs to participate in what was billed as a cultural exchange program.
Anaya said he hoped the trip would help get the students away from what he described as a negative atmosphere around the Hershey plant.
"I want the kids to have a good impression of what America is like before they go home," he said. "We don't want these kids to leave with a bad taste in their mouth."
Also Friday, some of the student-workers participated in demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to bring attention to their complaints, while others began meeting with a team of labor law experts from colleges and universities who were probing the dispute.
The U.S. Department of State said Friday its investigators would be arriving in Hershey on Monday.
More than 100,000 college students come to the U.S. annually on J-1 visas for a mixture of work and exposure to the country's culture, but an investigation by The Associated Press last year described how some ended up stuck in extremely low-paying jobs and living in crowded, unsanitary conditions.