How much is this kind of thing affecting our jobs numbers?
The six college students from Thailand and Vietnam had paid thousands of dollars to participate in an internship program at an Orlando hotel and get hands-on experience in the hospitality business.
The State Department issued them J-1 visas, which are supposed to be used for “educational and cultural exchange.” Under the terms of the visa, the students would spend a year performing paid work in different departments of the hotel to learn the business.
But the students claim that there was no educational component to their experience, just fulltime work as housekeepers — sweeping floors and making beds. On top of that, in a lawsuit filed this year, they say the Wyndham Hotel in Orlando broke federal and Florida laws by not paying minimum wage for that work. The Wyndham denied the charges, arguing that exchange students are not covered by U.S. labor standards, and moved to have the case dismissed. But on May 7 a U.S. district court judge refused to do so.
The accusation is one of many that have emerged recently against employers who have allegedly misused guest worker and student exchange visas in order to find cheap labor overseas and avoid hiring U.S. workers.