JENNIFER GORDON: America’s Sweatshop Diplomacy

ACCORDING to the State Department, the J-1 visa Summer Work Study program, which allows foreign students to work in the United States for a few months, is meant to promote “lasting and meaningful relationships” between the students and Americans.

Try telling that to the more than 300 J-1 holders who went on strike at a Hershey’s distribution plant in Pennsylvania last week, with the support of the National Guestworker Alliance. These engineering majors and future lawyers from places like Turkey, Moldova and China came hoping to travel and speak English, but spent the summer packing and lifting heavy pallets of Kit-Kats, often on overnight shifts and for meager pay.

Here. The work still has to get done. The pay she complains about reflects a lot of factors, such as supply of labor, demand for the labor, the volume of work, non-cash benefits, skill level. The guest workers get the non-cash benefit of living in a foreign country. Again, the work still has to get done. Why should anyone get high pay for “menial jobs”?

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