Summer work travel: Cheap labor or cultural exchange?

summer work travelThe Summer Work Travel (SWT) program is a U.S. Department of State initiative that brings college students from around the world to the United States for seasonal jobs. But far from the cultural exchange advertised, students are finding themselves exploited by workplace safety and health violations.

Late last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the program. Last month, federal officials issued citations and possible fines of nearly $300,000 against the Hershey Company, an employer involved with the program, reports PennLive. This week, the Center for Immigration Studies will hold a public discussion panel sorting it all out.

The panel will discuss results of the report “Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: The $100 Million Work Travel Industry” that says the SWT program has become a cheap labor program in the guise of cultural exchange.Critical of motives behind the program, the Center for Immigration Studies report accuses the program of providing “incentives for employers to bypass American workers by exempting SWT employers from taxes that apply to employment of Americans. Employers also don’t have to worry about providing health insurance, since SWT students are required to buy it for themselves.”

The discussion will be held in Washington D.C. tomorrow, March 13, 2012 at 9 a.m. in the Murrow Room at the National Press Club, 14th and F Streets, NW. Admission is free and open to the public. A transcript and video of the discussion will be available the following week.

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[Flickr photo by Ryan.padilla]