More than 100 students gathered in touristy downtown Hershey, home to the nation’s second-largest candy maker, arguing that they were employed under the guise of a cultural exchange but toil away in what amounts to a sweets sweatshop.
“All we can do is work and sleep,’’ said Godwin Efobi, 26, a Ukrainian student originally from Nigeria.
The students, who protested with a bullhorn, leaflets, and a petition they planned to present to Hershey executives, complain of hard physical labor, steep pay deductions, rent that often left them with little spending money, and no cultural enrichment. They said their complaints were met with threats of deportation, prompting some to look for help.
A spokesman for the Hershey Co. would say only that the corporation expects its vendors to treat employees “fairly and equitably.’’
Lynn Anderson, a spokeswoman for Ohio-based Exel, which runs the warehouse, said that the students’ concerns hadn’t been raised directly with the company.