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Are foreign students a source of cheap labor?

Nov 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Features, Front Page

The federal government’s Summer Work Travel program “provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university to experience and to be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States” [1]. But the foreign students who came under the program last year and worked in Hershey’s chocolate plant claimed that they were forced to work for minimal wages under physically demanding conditions. The students went on strike, and the ensuing media coverage revealed how subcontractors such as SHS OnSite Solutions arranged for student workers from the Council for Educational Travel, USA, an entity that was designated by the U.S. Department of State to bring foreign students into the country and place them with U.S. employers.

Now we learn that the U.S. government has “reached a settlement… that recovers $213,000 in back wages for 1,028 foreign students who were summer employees in what many said were abusive conditions at a factory in Palmyra, Pa., that packed Hershey’s chocolates” [2]. The amount is a pittance—less than $210 per student. But U.S. companies may be more concerned about avoiding adverse publicity: do you want to be known for using cheap foreign labor right here in the U.S.?

[1] http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/summer-work-travel/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/us/foreign-students-will-get-back-pay-for-factory-work.html

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