There are higher than 100,000 young workers who come to the US every year on US J-1 visa Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. Produced by the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 as a kind of cultural interchange, the US J-1 SWT program, managed by the State Department, has turned far from its mission, the workers told. It has converted as a significant source of cheap and exploitable labor.
Some workers reported requiring to have higher than one job at the same time to make ends satisfy or having to obtain employment on their own. Time to involve in cultural activities is insignificant at best, and housing is inhumane; we saw a warehouse that accommodated dozens of women and men at once.
Rather than a cultural exchange, workers in the program who did everything from sweeping hotel rooms to serving ice cream— encountered sex and race-based discrimination, retaliation, misrepresentation, and stolen wages.
Many young individuals have paid to work below this program. Sponsor agencies in workers’ in the native countries charge plenty of dollars in exchange for the cultural exchange promise. Workers usually take loans to meet recruitment and tour fees, growing their vulnerability to insult. 67 holders of J-1 visa self-reported to a hotline as human trafficking victims within 2015 and 2017.
The data implies that companies are hiring J-1 SWT workers to avoid caps on different work visas, avoid regulations on mutual bargaining, and evade having to pay regular wages. It has a harmful effect on the complete workforce.
No one needs to pay to work. As an association, we can come collectively to provide young workers with the cultural exchange they justify. By strengthening the law that defends their rights, we can genuinely welcome them with open arms.
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