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US: Sweatshop protests damage Hershey's sweet reputation

Date: 22 Aug 2011

Chocolate

Student protests have highlighted the plight of 400 students who paid up to $6,000 to join the State department's cultural exchange scheme, which led to them working long hard shifts at a factory providing Hershey for which they were paid a pittance. The incident has put Hershey on the defensive, and raised issues around corporate supply chain practices.

Students charged that they had been forced to become captive workers, working long shifts, often at night, and paid between $40 and $140 per week after the deduction of housing costs. Complaints were met with the threat to eject them from the programme.

The claims are being investigated by a group of experts on labour and international law from a number of US universities, which is currently interviewing some of the students concerned according to the Huffington Post.

Hershey has fended off criticism, saying that the plant in question was operated by its agent, Exel, and it had no control over Exel's operating practices. A spokesman said: "The Hershey Company expects all its vendors, including Exel, to treat employees fairly and equitably."

Exel in turn said that the student programme was overseen by a third company, but that all students had been informed in advance of likely working conditions.

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