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Student workers at Hershey facility win back wages

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012

Exel said it had agreed to settle "in the interest of resolving this matter amicably." It said its other facilities may see similar noise exposure abatements and record-keeping improvements, part of its "ongoing compliance efforts."

Telephone calls seeking comment from SHS and the Council for Educational Travel USA were not immediately returned Wednesday.

In August 2011, more than 100 foreign students who worked at the facility staged a protest, saying they took the jobs in the belief they would be taking part in a cultural exchange, not working at menial jobs that left them little time or energy to do much else.

One protester, Yana Brenzey, a 19-year-old journalism student from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, said she had no idea that she would be lifting 40-pound boxes or netting only about $200 a week. Other students who took part in the protest were from China, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and Turkey.

With Hershey's support, Exel subsequently decided to end its practice of hiring people who hold J-1 Summer Work Travel visas issued by the U.S. Department of State, Beckman said.

Federal officials conducted inspections after the National Guestworker Alliance advocacy group filed a complaint on the students' behalf.

The alliance's legal director, Jennifer Rosenbaum, said the Hershey protest helped expose how some employers use subcontracting, outsourcing and temporary staffing agencies to undercut federal wage, health and safety standards.