Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Ian McKenna
Dollar General workers in Oklahoma quit en masse over horrific working conditions. Already living paycheck to paycheck, they were forced to work in a store that broiled in 90+ degree temperatures. We spoke with workers about their protest and Dollar General’s callousness. Below is a full transcript of the video.
Josh Tinker: It would be 90°+ in the summer. And then in the wintertime it was like forties, fifties in the store. Like, you could see your breath.
Sonya Sivils: In the wintertime, I got pneumonia from working in those conditions.
Joseph Rivest: Between the mold, and the holes in the ceiling tiles, there’s birds in the building still. You can see bird poop on product, which people are touching.
Sonya: No air conditioners that would work in the summer, that’s why we walked out.
Dollar General tortures staff with dangerous conditions. Now workers are taking back their power.
Josh: I mean, they wouldn’t take care of anything. So at that point, we decided to turn our keys in because they couldn’t provide those simple things and just look for something else.
Joseph: So I’m quitting due to medical reasons. I’m 27 years old and I have shingles because of this job.
Sonya: I’m glad I quit. I feel like I stood up for my own rights, too.
Workers at the Dollar General in Apache, OK, walked off the job over unbearably hot working conditions.
Josh: We put tickets in repeatedly through their responding ticket program—that’s how we get maintenance stuff done. They just kept telling us the temperatures were acceptable in the store.
Joseph: The heat, however, it gets unbearable. You can walk outside and it’s cooler. It’s a giant oven.
Josh: The heat would cause all the candy to melt. And I don’t know if it was negatory on the medications, but I mean, I know they got to be climate controlled.
Sonya: It was like that last summer, too, and it was like 80 something degrees in there this last time.
Josh: My assistant manager was sitting in there with ice packs down her pants and her shirt and a towel because we were just dripping in sweat. I had a lot of elderly, disabled employees. My customers are disabled. They can’t—I mean, that’s a lawsuit. You can’t have people with conditions working in that. And so I told her to just [close the store].
Workers said Dollar General’s response to their basic demands was slow and insufficient.
Josh: We went out there with our cars and we put signs up saying we want A/C. And I let the district manager know. And they said they were bringing three units down and it turned out that there was three broken units. And yeah, they got it fixed that day, actually— or quote, unquote. They weren’t able to provide me with an assurance showing that it was properly fixed or assurances that we wouldn’t be held in any negative light for standing up for ourselves.
Sonya: I think we just all inspired each other because we’ve seen what each other was going through so we just come together as a team again and did what we had to do.
Joseph: If we’re melting and getting sick because of your job, and your building, and your location, and your policies, then how are you going to have a business when no one’s going to want to work for you at that point?
Other Dollar General stores have voiced similar complaints about poor facility management and egregious understaffing, despite the company making $2.4 billion in net income in 2021.
Josh: We live paycheck to paycheck.
Joseph: Their health insurance is outrageous so no one can even afford it, and if you do get your insurance through them, there goes half your paycheck.
Caitlin Olive: I’ve worked at Dollar General in another state, and it was the same situation. It’s got to be like the whole company. Like they just—they don’t care.
Joseph: I have actually spoken to one of the locations in Lawton and they would complain about the same thing between A/C and heat not working, holes in the ceiling, bathrooms needing repair that aren’t even working.
Dollar General workers stafed a protest for better pay and working conditions at the company’s shareholder meeting on May 25.
[Workers at rally]: I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!
The former employees at the Apache store say they hope their community and other Dollar General workers push for change.
Josh: So the community has been a great support. They offered to help me and my employees find other avenues of income and a job. They had over 200 signatures on a petition which I [started] to get Dollar General boycotted out of here.
Caitlin: I don’t see Dollar General changing. I don’t see the corporate side of it making it safe for the community, making it safe for the employees or anybody. And I feel like if Dollar General were to leave, that would give a good business a chance to do right by the community because Dollar General has not— it’s all about money for them.
Joseph: They do not treat their employees well. They don’t pay a living wage. They’re not caring about our health. They’re not caring about what their stores look like, you know? And so if you’re in that position, yeah, stand up for yourselves. Do a walk out, get something done.
Josh: Dollar General workers should stand up across the whole United States and unionize. They should take back what’s rightfully theirs.