Hershey Contractor Allegedly Exploits Foreign Students
Calvert joins other investors to ask Hershey Company to improve on labor issues.
The Hershey Company, a major global confectionary manufacturer, is no stranger to controversy. For years, investors like Calvert, non-profit groups and others have asked the company to address the issue of child labor in its cocoa supply chain. Recently, Hershey is back in the news for labor-related problems.
About 300 foreign guest student workers protested outside a Hershey packing warehouse in Pennsylvania on August 17, 2011, causing a work stoppage. The students are in the U.S. as part of a State Department guest visa program designed to promote cultural exchange; the students pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for a special visa to enter the country to work during the summer, typically in hotels and summer camps. They are given the option to use the money they earn to travel within the US to learn about the country and practice English. However, the protesting students said that they work long hours doing backbreaking work in the Hershey plant, stacking boxes and working packing assembly lines. They complained of low pay and unfair working conditions. Some students said that they are earning too little to travel in the US, and some will not be able to recoup the cost of their guest visa. Students recorded a plant manager saying they could be fired and deported if they protested conditions. The students’ experience is hardly in keeping with their expectations going into the program, and raises questions about Hershey’s oversight of its contractors.
Calvert is part of a team of investors who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) that have asked the company to improve its programs to assure consumers that Hershey is doing what it can to eliminate child labor from West African cocoa plantations. Led by the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment and Everence Investments, the engagement with Hershey covers labor conditions generally, and will raise the issue of the guest student workers with the company. Four layers of companies were involved in hiring the students, including Hershey and its subcontractors. The companies have not stated which company holds the greatest responsibility for the students.
Calvert Investment Management, Inc., 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.