By Emma Ockerman
Activists and workers descended on the Dollar General ’s /zigman2/quotes/200691429/composite DG +1.25% annual shareholder meeting in Goodlettsville, Tenn. Wednesday to demand better pay and safer working conditions.
Protesters had hoped to go directly into the shareholder meeting, but were turned away because they arrived at its doors approximately four minutes late, even though three of them — including the prominent civil rights and anti-poverty activist Rev. William Barber II — were legally designated as shareholder proxies, according to the Nashville Scene .
Barber shared a video of himself attempting to enter the meeting at Goodlettsville City Hall with his nearly 350,000 Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.44% followers, saying they “were unjustly and unfairly denied our rightful place” because they advocated for living wages.“You saw us coming,” Barber told a woman outside of the meeting Wednesday, according to the video. “We are shareholders.”Barber then appeared to repeatedly knock on the door.
In a statement, Dollar General told MarketWatch that Barber was present outside Goodlettsville City Hall “well in advance of the shareholder meeting and as part of the demonstration.”“The shareholder meeting began promptly at 9am, its official start time,” the company said. “We are unaware of any individual, including Reverend Barber, who sought access to the meeting at or before that time and was denied access.”
The protest was organized by Step Up Louisiana, an economic justice organization, according to the Nashville Scene. A live video posted to the organization’s Facebook page shows orange-clad demonstrators playing music and chanting while carrying signs that read, “We are not working for peanuts” and “We are underpaid, $8.25 is not enough.”
The Tennessean reported that about 125 organizers were present at the demonstration and the march down from a local park, calling for a wage of $15 an hour, a frequent demand of activist groups and progressives. (The federal minimum wage remains $7.25.)
Some workers also shared personal stories during the demonstration, according to the Facebook Live video. One person who was described as a Dollar General employee in Marion, N.C., shared with the crowd that they earn only $10 an hour. “I have three children,” the worker said. “That’s not enough for our family.” “We maintain open lines of communication with our employees and encourage team members to share their thoughts via the many company-provided channels so that we can work collaboratively to address challenges and celebrate successes,” Dollar General said in a statement. “As is our practice, we plan to listen, and are listening, to their feedback.”
The discount retailer, which reported better-than-expected first-quarter profits and sales Thursday, is among the many big-name brands to have faced union drives in the past several months amid a rising cost of living.
In a February statement , the Labor Department also said that federal workplace safety and health inspections across four Dollar General stores last summer had “found the nationwide discount retailer’s long history of exposing employees to dangerous working conditions continues.” Inspectors identified violations including failing to keep receiving areas clean and orderly, stacking items in an unsafe manner, and exposing workers to fire hazards, the press release said.
What’s more, Mary Gundel, a Dollar General worker in Tampa, Fla. went viral in March after posting complaints about the business’ working conditions on TikTok. By April 1, she posted that she’d been fired for her statements. Her TikTok account showed that she was at Wednesday’s protest in Tennessee.