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Hundreds of foreign students walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday.

The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that makes Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place.

I think it would be terribly hard to break even on $8.35 per hour, even without rent and program fees deducted from their salaries.

Where have we seen this before?  Exploiting foreign citizens for cheap labor, making it impossible for them to break even or heaven forbid profit from their work.  

Hershey's response?  Blame the staffing company, not us.

A spokesman for Hershey's, Kirk Saville, said the chocolate company did not directly operate the Palmyra packing plant, which is managed by a company called Exel. A spokeswoman for Exel said it had found the student workers through another staffing company.

So Hershey outsources its HR function so it doesn't have to be responsible for its hiring practices.  Right.  

From the New York Times article:

The students said they decided to protest when they learned that neighbors in the apartments and houses where they were staying were paying significantly less rent.

This is their experience of America.  Being hired at low wages for long hours of physical labor, then being cheated by your employer so more of your wages go back to the company coffers.

It seems like there's a lot of blame to go around.  Hershey, for outsourcing its HR function, the staffing agency for setting up and profiting from the exploitative situation, and the State Department, for not properly overseeing the staffing operations.  

Reprehensible.

Originally posted to Tracker on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 07:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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