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Over 200 Dollar General Workers and Customers Protest
Action Follows String of Protests at Dollar General Stores Across Nine States

May 29, 2024, GOODLETTSVILLE, TN—Over 200 Dollar General workers and customers gathered for a march and protest at the corporation’s annual shareholder meeting to demand store safety and better pay. The group gathered for a rally where workers delivered speeches to share their stories about the repeated hazards they face while working at Dollar General. The rally was followed by a march to Dollar General headquarters, where chants from the protest could be heard inside the shareholder meeting, according to three Dollar General workers who attended the meeting as proxies. Dollar General headquarters were on lockdown as protesters arrived.

Wednesday’s protest comes after several years of public scrutiny and continued media coverage of Dollar General’s repeated track record of store safety violations, including blocked exits, perpetually understaffed stores, in-store violence and other hazards. A delegation of workers with Step Up Louisiana who have been organizing for dollar store safety traveled by bus from New Orleans to join other Dollar General workers, advocates and labor organizations from across the South, including  Union of Southern Service Workers (USSW)Interfaith Center on Corporate ResponsibilitySEIU Local 205Workers’ DignityPoder Popular and the New Justice Project.

In May 2023, Dollar General shareholders approved a resolution to create an independent audit into worker safety and well-being at the last annual shareholder meeting, an unprecedented move in response to growing pressure on Dollar General and other national chains to improve store safety. In a public statement, Step Up Louisiana slammed the audit, calling it a “sham,” pointing out that Dollar General hired a notorious union-busting law firm, Jackson Lewis, to lead the audit, and citing the audit’s failure to measurably improve store safety:

“At first, we were encouraged to see Dollar General shareholders vote for a safety audit. When you have Bloomberg calling Dollar General the ‘worst retail job in America,’ OSHA making Dollar General the first company to be put on its Severe Violators list, and workers across the country protesting over store conditions, getting a handle on the nature and cause of the crisis is a good first step. Unfortunately, the leadership of the company has used this audit as a tool to deny the extensive reporting, regulatory determinations and first-person worker accounts of the safety crisis, rather than using it to get to the bottom of the situation.

We call on Dollar General to shelve this sham of an audit and get to work implementing the safety demands dollar store workers developed more than a year ago. Dollar General workers stand ready to share our experiences and insights into what makes it so dangerous to show up to work every day whenever the company discovers a real interest in solving this crisis. We’ll be outside their headquarters tomorrow if they want to talk.”

Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos, who returned to the role last October after Jeff Owen stepped down amid controversy around store safety, did not meet with workers or organizers at the protest. However, two Dollar General employees spoke with Vasos inside the shareholder meeting, including David Williams, who works as a stocker in New Orleans. Last year, Williams delivered a statement directly to shareholders as a proxy for Domini Impact Investments.

“The message has always been the same and is very clear—we just want better for all workers, all workers who go through the grind, all workers who put their blood, sweat and tears into this thing,” Williams said. “This year, I had a closer interaction with the CEO—he shook my hand twice. Then he started gaslighting me, talking about how brave I was from last year. I told him, this isn’t about bravery—I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for my people. We’re trying to survive and be better in life, and we can’t do that while we’re looking over our shoulders at work, praying for safety, and all the while we’re getting paid so little.”

Williams continued, “[Vasos] said, ‘I definitely understand where you’re coming from, we’re doing the best we can.’ To that I say, you can say you’re doing your best, but your effort is little to none right now. We really need to see results moving forward. We want to see better in the company we’re working for–better for the customers, better for the employees. You say you worked in retail, so come on, man, wake up. You have the opportunity to really make some changes in the company you run. If you value us like you say you do, show it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders chimed in with a post on X in support of workers, echoing Williams’ critique of Vasos: “Today, Dollar General workers are fighting back against rampant corporate greed. Rather than fix dangerous understaffing & safety violations, CEO Todd Vasos wants to give himself a raise & personal use of the company jet after making $8.9 million last year. Enough is enough.”

Last summer, Step Up Louisiana surveyed over 300 Louisiana dollar stores and found pervasive safety violations that pose an imminent threat to both employees and customers. The organization shared findings from the survey in their Dollar Store Health and Safety Report.

Wednesday’s protest is a culmination of a series of nationwide actions over the past week as customers joined workers in nine states to protest dollar stores’ persistent safety violations and advocate for workers’ safety demands. This wave of protests is also taking place amid a groundswell of labor victories across the South at Starbucks, Amazon and in the automotive industry.