The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hershey’s Chocolate Plant Strike

Aug 22, 2011

“It is just work, WORK FASTER, work,” said a striking student worker from China. Hundreds of young people from Nigeria, China and Eastern Europe walked off their jobs at a Hershey’s plant in Pennsylvania on August 18 to protest conditions.

They had been required to pay $3000 to $6000 each for 2-month visas to work in the U.S., practice English and experience American culture.

Thanks to their strike, they ARE learning English. Together they came up with chants and protest slogans – in English.

When they arrived in Pennsylvania, these 400 young people found themselves working round-the-clock on a fast moving assembly line, boxing and packing Kit-Kats, Reece’s and Almond Joys.

So much “rent” and “program fees” were being deducted from their checks, they would never get out of debt. When students got “clued in” by Pennsylvania neighbors that they were being overcharged on rent, this was the last straw.

One young person from Turkey had originally been excited to work at Hershey’s. “We have all seen [the movie Willy Wonka and] Charlie’s chocolate factory.... We thought, ‘This is good.’”

Perhaps a better preparation would have been to watch that old I Love Lucy episode about speed-up at the chocolate factory!

Attempting to cover up, Rick Anaya, the CEO of The Council for Educational Travel (which runs this “cultural program” for the U.S. State Department), wound up saying more than he had intended. In the New York Times on 8/19/11 he said the program’s goal of shaping foreign young people’s views of the U.S. was being met. “Most certainly they will have improved ... their understanding of America.”

Yes, indeed! These strike participants have learned about speed up, exploitation, and the need for workers of the world to unite and fight – priceless!