Hershey remains in the headlines. The "Raise the Bar, Hershey!" Campaign has spread the word about Hershey’s labor issues. Last week, reports surfaced about Hershey. This time the exploitation was not occurring on cocoa farms in West Africa, but much closer to home. On August 17th hundreds of foreign student workers organized a sit-in at a Hershey packing plant in Pennsylvania to protest exploitive, underpaid working conditions.
The students, who came from as far away as Ukraine, Mongolia, Ghana and Turkey, each paid roughly $3,000-$6,000 for visas to come to the U.S., for what they thought would be a cultural exchange program. Instead, they found themselves packing boxes of Reese’s and Almond Joy’s at the Hershey plant in deeply exploitive conditions. The students earned between $7.25 to $8.35 per hour, but after reductions for rent and fees associated with the program, the students found themselves with barely enough to live on, and not nearly enough to cover what they spent to come to the U.S.
On Facebook, Hershey responded to consumers’ concerns by saying “The facility in question is not staffed or managed by Hershey's but a third party, Exel.” According to research, Hershey’s bottom line benefits from using low paid, student labor, and yet the company does not take responsibility for these workers.
Hershey has responded similarly to the concerns raised about labor abuse on cocoa farms, stating that since Hershey does not own the cocoa farms, the company cannot be linked to occurrences of forced child labor. And while The Hershey Company “expects vendors to treat employees equitably and fairly” the company does not have policies in place to ensure its suppliers comply with international labor rights standards.
As the country's oldest, and largest chocolate manufacturer, that earned $509 million in profits last year, the Hershey Company needs to do more to protect its workers' rights from bean to bar.
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