Friday, February 3, 2012
From the National Guestworker Alliance:
State sanctions Hershey’s labor recruiter CETUSA for exploitation, retaliation
Yesterday, in a vindication of the six-month campaign by the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the U.S. State Department announced it had barred major student guestworker recruiter CETUSA from the J-1 summer work travel visa program.
The State Department is also considering major structural changes to the J-1 program, which the NGA has pressed to protect future student workers.
CETUSA had sourced student workers into exploitation at the Hershey’s Chocolate plant in Palmyra, PA. Students organized to stop abuses, and demanded that Hershey’s turn the temporary jobs filled by J-1s back into living wage jobs for local workers. CETUSA responded with threats and retaliation.
“The State Department’s ban on CETUSA is a big win for the students, and a blow against the larger trend of labor recruiters and companies using guestworkers to hollow out industries and undercut wages and conditions all over America,” said NGA Director Saket Soni.
“Corporations like Hershey’s and labor recruiters like CETUSA have turned the J-1 cultural exchange program into the country’s largest guestworker program, and profited from captive workers earning low wages,” Soni said.
In August 2011, on the eve of the Occupy movement, student guestworkers at the Hershey’s packing plant joined the NGA and held a factory occupation—making the pages of the New York Times, Newsweek, and The Washington Post.
The jobs at the Hershey’s Chocolate plant had once been union jobs that came with rights, respect, and a living wage. Hershey’s subcontracted the jobs, and labor recruiter CETUSA provided Hershey’s with students on J-1 visas to work back-breaking shifts at low wages. Read more...