Union Power Agenda Behind Hershey Labor Unrest

Member Group : PA Manufacturers' Assn.

Much has been written about the so-called foreign student protests in Hershey.

As a small group of professional union activists and left-wing academics travel around spinning wild tales to anyone who will listen, it becomes ever more obvious that the students are being used by Big Labor as part of a broader campaign.

In fact, the campaign was organized by a front organization for Big Labor, the National Guestworker Alliance. Leaders of AFL-CIO and SEIU were prominent at the protests and have been managing events behind the scenes. Their real goal? As Teamster President James Hoffa said on Labor Day: To "take out" all resistance to the power of the union bosses.

The latest smear tactic is the release of a report by a group of handpicked union supporters who admit that they didn’t bother to talk to government officials or the students’ employers or to visit the facility. And they are trying to twist the facts about who runs the facility for the sole purpose of getting headlines.

The facility is run by a company that is not a household name, but it happens to store and ship Hershey products. And now, the AFL-CIO and its allies have given Hershey a deadline to meet its "demands" or face another round of protests in Hershey. They are demanding that Hershey recognize a union at a distribution center, even though Hershey is not the employer and such an action is therefore illegal. This has never been about the students.

At a time of high unemployment, it’s shocking that Big Labor would defame a company that sustains thousands of Pennsylvania jobs. What’s more, the attacks come at a time when The Hershey Co. is investing nearly $300 million to create a state-of-the art factory in Hershey, a factory that will support hundreds of families. The construction project, which represents the largest manufacturing investment of its kind in the commonwealth in decades, is creating hundreds of additional construction and trade jobs.

Here are the key facts:

The foreign student workers were never recruited or employed by The Hershey Co. However, the company’s famous name and excellent reputation provided an essential element for the unions to create a media circus.

The students chose these jobs. Each student signed a job description, which included accurate information about working conditions and wages. The documents can be found online at www.cetusa.org for anyone who cares to look.

The students worked in a safe, modern distribution center, alongside proud and hardworking Pennsylvanians doing similar work and earning similar pay for this seasonal, temporary work.

The overwhelming majority of students working at the facility reported for work as scheduled.

Union activists are demanding the refund of a "$6,000 fee" the students allegedly paid for these jobs. No such fee exists. Students who elect to participate in the program are advised that they will be traveling to and staying in the U.S. at their own cost. Now the unions are demanding that Hershey pay them for these amounts.

Early on, Exel, the global logistics provider that manages the warehouse, announced that it would discontinue using students to staff the facility. The Hershey Co. also worked to make sure that students receive a week of paid cultural leave to learn more about our society and better enjoy their visit here.

Considering that the U.S. economy created a net total of zero new jobs last month, it’s important to remember that The Hershey Co. made a choice to invest in Pennsylvania — not Virginia, Illinois or any other place where it has factories. A hostile labor climate hurts Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness, and union-inspired attacks such as these have negative long-term consequences on our ongoing race with other states for investment, growth and jobs.

In a free society and free economy, decisions about how, whether and when to invest or spend are voluntary. The enduring legacy of Milton Hershey’s company bears witness to the contributions of a manufacturing economy to the midstate.

For more than a century, this company has upheld the quality of life here in the midstate, employing generations of workers, purchasing from dairy farms and other suppliers, satisfying customers, earning healthy returns for shareholders and funding the largest residential education program in the nation — Milton Hershey School. Without these vitally important economic activities, life in the midstate would be much poorer in every way.

David N. Taylor is executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, a statewide trade organization representing the manufacturing sector in Harrisburg since 1909. www.pamanufacturers.org.