Dollar General workers protest shareholder meeting over low pay and safety issues
Kenya Slaughter has worked at Dollar General for about four years in Alexandria, Louisiana. Early in the pandemic, Slaughter publicly criticized the lack of support and protections for workers provided by the company even as demand soared.
She is one of the workers who attended a rally to protest Dollar General’s low pay of workers and unsafe working conditions during the company shareholder meeting on 25 May in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, led by labor and advocacy groups including Step Up Louisiana, United for Respect and Fight for $15 and a Union.
Ahead of the rally, Slaughter criticized the low wages she and other workers are paid at Dollar General around the US, citing caps on hourly rates and a lack of pay rates commensurate with seniority, with pay starting at $8 an hour, though she started at $11 an hour because she came in with experience.
“They only give a store a certain amount of hours for incredible workloads. When you’re in a high volume store like the one I work in, very fast paced and constantly have customers, you don’t have time to go to the restroom,” said Slaughter. “You have to stock, clean the restrooms, help the customers, work the register, be able to do paperwork, we have to do it all.”
She argued there is significant understaffing in her store, where there often isn’t enough staff to help customers or handle the workloads, which poses a safety issue as well, and that many stores operate without air conditioning.
“We want to bring awareness to the shareholders, because I’m sure there are some of them who have never set foot in a Dollar General,” added Slaughter. “Financially, being a ‘team player’ isn’t helping me because I’m putting in extra hours and extra work for something that’s not actually my position and not being compensated for it, and it’s not fair.”
Dollar General, which has the most retail store locations of any company in the US with over 18,000 locations in 47 states and continues to rapidly expand, has faced recent criticisms over its treatment of workers and safety violations.
In April 2022, a Dollar General store manager in Tampa, Florida, Mary Gundel, was fired after she posted a series of Tik-Tok videos that went viral where she reported poor working conditions; underfunding stores, understaffing where she was often left to run the store by herself, shipments delivered to the store with no staff to unpack and stock items, leaving boxes of products blocking aisles.
“A lot of us believe the shareholders and investors truly don’t know what goes on in these stores when it comes to the lack of safety for employees, lack of care for our employees, and things like that, so that is one of the main reasons we decided to do this demonstration in the streets at the shareholders meeting,” said Gundel.
She created the hashtag #PutInaTicket to mock the computerized procedural form workers have to use to submit complaints to Dollar General corporate and Gundel said nothing has been done about the numerous tickets she’s submitted through the system. Gundel has continued posting Tik Tok videos on Dollar General and attended the rally at the shareholder meeting.
“We have a really big problem with employees working by themselves. Having an employee by themselves is extremely dangerous in the retail industry and we think that is one of the biggest safety issues,” added Gundel. “Also their pay rates. We have assistant managers that barely make $11, $12 an hour. Meanwhile, they can go right next door to McDonald's and flip burgers for 15 bucks and that's just unacceptable.”
According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, 92 percent of Dollar General’s workforce is paid less than $15 an hour, compared to reporting $3.2 bn in profits in 2021 and paid its CEO over $16.4 mn in total compensation in 2021, 986 times the salary of the average employee. The company has historically paid the lowest wages among the top retailers in the US.