Over 100 Louisiana Dollar Store Workers March for Safer Stores, Better Pay

Dollar store workers hold a rally and second line for better pay and safety Dec. 10, 2022. | Photo courtesy Step Up Louisiana

After a number of violent incidents at dollar stores and the Dec. 8 shooting at the Gentilly Dollar Tree that left four people injured, dollar store workers from across New Orleans held a rally and second line to bring awareness to their fight for safer stores and higher wages on Saturday. The event was organized by Step Up Louisiana, an economic justice organization that has often championed the cause of lower-wage workers across the South.

“We want changes. Safety is a number one priority – they want us to play security guard but we cannot do that when we have to stock merchandise, unload trucks, and everything else,” said Ronald Johnson, Chair of Louisiana Dollar Store Workers United. “Dollar Tree is a billion-dollar company – we’re not getting paid that kind of money. When I leave and go to work, I’d like to get back home safe to my wife.”

Prior to the rally and second line, workers outlined a list of demands for Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar to implement, including hiring and training Community Safety Managers. These CSMs would be trained in de-escalation and self-defense and would be an in-house position rather than an off-duty police officer or private security contractor. They also requested several changes to the store layout and procedures, including:

  • Limiting cash availability at stores using functional, discreet drop safes
  • Prioritizing prompt repairs of any property damage at stores and close stores when there is damage to windows or exteriors
  • Providing a reliable response system for emergency personnel to support in life-threatening emergency incidents
  • Allocating enough hours and staff so that no worker is alone, overstretched, or vulnerable during their shift
  • Paid time off and compensation after exposure to violence, dangerous incidents, or harm in the workplace
  • In-person training for workers that includes response protocols for emergency situations that focus on de-escalation
  • Quarterly risk assessments in each store to ensure compliance and enforcement of safe workplaces
  • Ensure workers have input into developing the new policies and training protocols

“We need more infrastructure [for safety] – we need to be able to see who’s coming in and out of the store,” said Shawn Byrd, a Family Dollar employee from the Almonaster Ave. location in New Orleans. “We need more staffing – safe staffing. When I’m here, there’s only two people there at night; there’s never really more than three people.”

During a recent night shift at Family Dollar, Byrd had to attend to a gunshot wound victim who took shelter in the store while waiting for police to arrive. Byrd said the need for mental health services after traumatic events like this occur is important. “We also need a right to heal – a right to heal from mental and physical stress that happens inside the workplace.”

An increase in wages is also an important priority for workers. During Saturday’s rally, Kenya Slaughter, a Dollar General employee and leader from Alexandria, LA spoke on the issue.

“I’m going to start with the facts. The facts are, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General are billion-dollar companies–not million–billion dollar companies. Those are the facts. The things we are asking for, they could easily do. There’s no reason we should be treated the way we are.”

“We gotta play manager, security guard, cashier, stocker–but we get one pay,” Slaughter continued, noting that after four years at the store, she still only makes $13 per hour. Slaughter and other workers are pushing for $25 per hour, saying that amount would make a significant improvement to their quality of life.

The average hourly employee salary at all three companies is between $9.95/hr – $13/hr for a retail associate/cashier. Meanwhile, Howard Levine, Chief Executive of Family Dollar receives a base salary of more than $1.19 million, Gary Philbin, President and CEO of Dollar Tree receives over $7.7 million, and Todd J. Vasos, CEO of Dollar General receives over $10.6 million.

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