Located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Hershey Chocolate Company is one of the largest manufacturers of quality chocolate in the North America. Approximately 14,000 employees work for the Company throughout the world with revenues of more than $6 billion. Hershey’s offer more than 80 brand names including popular brands as: HERSHEY'S, REESE'S, HERSHEY'S KISSES, HERSHEY'S BLISS, HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK, KIT KAT, TWIZZLERS, JOLLY RANCHER and ICE BREAKERS.
On August 17, 2011, four hundred foreign students from Asia and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, and Romania publicly announced that they were being mistreated at a Hershey Company packing plant and were working under horrible conditions. These students came to America, sponsored through the Pennsylvania J-1 Visa, because they wanted to improve their English and experience life in America. Nearly 200 foreign students involved in the J-1 Visa Program walked out of the factory in August stating that they suffered abuse while working. The students who were employed by Exel Company, a logistical company contracted by Hershey Chocolate Company, claimed that they were working on fast moving assembly lines, packing and lifting boxes that weighed over 50 pounds, and working long overnight shifts that began at 11 p.m. The program advertised that the students would be provided with an educational culture experience while having fun. Unfortunately, for many Program attendees, this was not the case. One student said “It was horrible, and when we complained about the conditions, we were threatened with deportation.” In a 24 page citation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Exel was fined $283,000 for health and safety violations. It was also reported that in the past four years, Excel Packing company failed to report 42 serious injuries that occured in the plant. Six of the nine violations that were charged against Excel was for failure to protect the workers.
Based on the behavior of the Exel Company, it is obvious that the basic ethical theories were not being practiced. Most business implement ethical theories to ensure that their employees do business in a honorable and respectful manner
The ethical theories that will be explored will be Individualist, Utilitarianist, Kantian, and Virtue. The first ethical theory that will be discussed will be Individualism. The definition of individualism is pursing the interest of the company, such as profits, but to do so within the constraints of the law and human rights. The use of the foreign students seemed like a good idea since the primary reason for them being in the United States was to work and get a feel for the American life. However what they experienced was the sleezy side of American business. Exel saw them as cheap labor who would work under any conditions for little pay in an attempt to increase profit. Yes, Hershey did want a profit, and Exel wanted to help Hershey maximize the profit. They accomplished this through forced labor on kids who came to America for a learning experience. An individualist would not approve of the actions of Exel in trying to maximize profit where it was outside of the law.
The second theory is Utilitarianism. This theory states that businesses should try to maximize happiness for all people. In the case of Exel Packing Company there was only one group that was happy and they were not the employees, in this case the foreign students. The students who came to America to improve their English and to tour around the country instead were working for unfair conditions in the factory. It was a way to see what America is like and get a feel of the culture that we live every day
Kantianism is defined as a duties theory. The Kantianism Philosophy is to do what is right because it is the right thing to do and to respect humanity by not using people for your own personal gain. In the case of Hershey Company and the Exel Pa, they thought they were doing something good by hiring foreign students who wanted a learning experience, but instead used them in the wrong way by treating them like unequal’s in the work place. They abused them by requiring that they work the night shift, work on the treacherous fast-moving lines, lifting boxes over 50 pounds which left them with neck, back and arm injuries for a pay that was way below average. The goal that Exel wanted to succeed in is to pack the boxes of chocolate for delivery. They did not treat the students as equals and used them to for the purpose of packaging boxes for delivery, so a Kantian would not support what Exel Company did. A Kant would also believe in the Formula of Humanity, which is “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means”. Exel Company did not treat the foreign student as the same respect as the Exel Company would also like to be treated.
Lastly, the final theory that will be analyzed is the Virtue theory. The virtue theory consists of four different virtues, Courage, Honesty, Temperance, and Justice. Courage, the courage to obey by the law and report all incidents at the work place did not take place. Information regarding their unethical practices was concealed so they would not get caught and be punished. There was dishonesty. The foreign students were mislead. They thought they were going to work in a stable work environment like all of the other employees, but were treated differently by the factory managers. Temperance - the students were not given reasonable expectations with the work that was assigned to them. No matter what they did, the students did not get any awards or days off. If they complained about the work that was given, they were threatened with deportation. Lastly there was no justice. Exel was running a factory that was over working the students who wanted to learn the American business ways and to get a feel for the American culture. They were preforming illegal actions by not abiding by OSHA regulations by forcing the student to lift heavy boxes and work during the night hours with very low wages.
In the end the case of Hershey Chocolate Company and Exel Packing Factory failed all ethical theories.
Adams. Forbs Magazine, "Hershey Fudges Labor Relations Image." Last modified 08 26, 2011. Accessed April 7, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2011/08/26/hershey-fudges-labor-relations-image/.
HERSHEY'S HISTORY. Hershey Chocolate Company. (Accessed April 7, 2013) http://www.thehersheycompany.com/about-hershey/our-story/hersheys-history.aspx.
Jamieson. Huffington Post Business, “Hershey Labor Controversy Investigated By Legal Experts.” Last modified 10 19. 2011. Accessed April 7 2013)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/19/hershey-guest-workers-claims-investigated_n_931411.html.
Preston. New York Times, “Hershey’s Packer Is Fined over Its Safety Violations”. Last modified 02 21, 2012. Accessed April 7, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/us/hersheys-packer-fined-by-labor-department-for-safety-violations.html?_r=0.
Salazar, Heather. Western New England University. Spring Semester 2013 Class Notes.
The Patriot-News staff and wire report. Patriot News. “Months after protests at Hershey Co. warehouse, changes loom for foreign students' work.” 02 13 2012. Accessed April 7, 2013 http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/01/months_after_protests_in_hersh.html.