Friday, October 21, 2011

CETUSA, Hershey and J-1 Visas

A friend sent this to me:

Subject: Hershey's exploiting poor foreign student labour.

Mr. Torres echoed many students when he said his lowest moment came with his first paycheck. After deductions by Cetusa for rent, utilities, bus fare and other items, he took home $85 for 35 hours of work. "You wanted a cultural exchange," Mr. Torres was told by the group representative, he said. "This is America and this is the way we do things here."

New York Times article here (also linked above); c/o Tiger Beatdown

My response was totally different to the subject line. It's funny, you see what you look for, I guess. Hershey exploiting foreign workers was not what I got out of this - what I got out of this was that Cetusa, the ostensible non-profit who brought them over, misled them and stole from them. I have a hard time reading this as "corporation exploits people" as much as it is "Holy lord, we have terrible oversight of our nonprofits and government programs" (mixed with "thank you Mom for giving me an education so I don't need to do that type of work"). If they'd received their entire salary and knew what they were getting into, I'm not sure this would have been quite the scandal it is (they would have made about 700 dollars instead of 35). Confirmation bias at work, for both of us, probably.

 And by the way, Hershey didn't even run the plant, and while I'm sympathetic to the idea that multinationals should care what happens at their subcontractors, it's not a given that they knew about it - subcontractors usually hide as much as they can from their multinational counterparts because they don't want to give the multinational negotiating leverage about their cost structure (or, for that matter, reason to investigate about labor or FDA compliance). So there's a principal-agent problem there, as well, if you wanna pin this on Hershey instead of its subcontractor. When you're Apple negotiating with Foxconn, that's one thing (huge subcontractor for a principal plant), but this is one small piece of a very, very large network of Hershey suppliers.

1 comment:

  1. I just knew this case from this article. My brother is going to do an intership with CETUSA this summer. Is it really banned? Will his visa be approved? Thanks for the reply.