Guest Workers Protest Conditions at Hershey Warehouse

By:  Jack Kenny
08/22/2011
       
Guest Workers Protest Conditions at Hershey Warehouse

While unemployment nationwide remains above nine percent in the United States, the State Department continues to bring in foreign exchange students to work for American employers. And at least some of the students aren't happy about it when they get here.

More than 100 student workers walked off the job for the second straight day yesterday and gathered in front of the Hershey Story Museum in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a protest demonstration over pay and working conditions at the candy maker's Eastern Distribution Center III in nearby Palmyra. About 400 exchange students from as far away as China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, and Romania are employed for the summer at the plant, at wages ranging from $7.25 to $8.35 an hour. But several of the protestors said lifting heavy boxes in a warehouse all day is not what they expected and that the payroll deductions, including rent for the mandatory company housing, leaves them with barely enough to live on.

"I pick up boxes that are 40 pounds — I weigh 95 pounds," Yana Bzengney, a 19-year-old student from Ukraine, told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. She paid $3,500 for the chance to come to the United States and to see the country and its people and maybe visit New York and Washington, D.C, she said. Instead, she has seen little more than the inside of the warehouse.

While unemployment nationwide remains above nine percent in the United States, the State Department continues to bring in foreign exchange students to work for American employers. And at least some of the students aren't happy about it when they get here.

More than 100 student workers walked off the job for the second straight day yesterday and gathered in front of the Hershey Story Museum in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a protest demonstration over pay and working conditions at the candy maker's Eastern Distribution Center III in nearby Palmyra. About 400 exchange students from as far away as China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, and Romania are employed for the summer at the plant, at wages ranging from $7.25 to $8.35 an hour. But several of the protestors said lifting heavy boxes in a warehouse all day is not what they expected and that the payroll deductions, including rent for the mandatory company housing, leaves them with barely enough to live on.

"I pick up boxes that are 40 pounds — I weigh 95 pounds," Yana Bzengney, a 19-year-old student from Ukraine, told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. She paid $3,500 for the chance to come to the United States and to see the country and its people and maybe visit New York and Washington, D.C, she said. Instead, she has seen little more than the inside of the warehouse.

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Photo: A smoke stack of the Hershey chocolate plant is seen in Hershey, Pa.: AP

 

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