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Union Workers Target Hershey Chocolate Plant With 1,000-Person March

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"PAY BACK PA."

Foreign workers protested working conditions August 17, 2011. (Photo credit: The Patriot-News)

Union organizers are planning a 1,000-person march in Hershey, Pa. Friday to support international students who say they were duped into coming to work in the U.S. for low-paying factory jobs at the famed chocolate company.

According to the Pennsylvania Patriot-News, debate has been raging for the past month over the foreign student workers, who are working in the U.S. through the J1 Visa program. They came forward in August saying they signed up and paid for a three-month cultural exchange program to live and work in the United States, and instead found themselves in unfair working conditions at a packing and shipping plant with other foreign workers and little contact with Americans.

After joining up with the Chocolate Workers Union, a division of the AFL-CIO, about 200 students and union members walked off their jobs and protested outside the plant. In response, Hershey directed the students' host organization to pay for a week-long paid vacation to tour the East Coast.

Labor organizers are demanding that the students be repaid for the cost of their trips to the U.S. and that the warehouse become a unionized facility.

The State Department is currently probing the plant, and said in an initial report that the majority of the complaints resulted from insufficient pre-departure orientation, difficult work, high housing costs, few cultural opportunities and lack of responsiveness by the host organization, according to the Patriot-News.

In August, the student workers produced this "Justice at Hershey's" video to highlight their experience:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/8-h8EBP0JSs?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]

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