On July 12, workers delivered a petition to Dollar General demanding increased safety measures in their store which has experienced multiple robberies, an end to wage theft, the rehiring of a worker who was wrongfully fired and a raise to at least $15 per hour for all Dollar General workers. For months, workers at the Dollar General store in the small town of Holly Hill, South Carolina (population 1,469) were experiencing a myriad of dangerous working conditions and injustices on the job.The workers, who have been organizing with Raise Up the South, informed the company that if key demands were not met, they would go on strike.
On the morning of July 16, workers made good on their promise and walked off the job after Dollar General failed to meet a bulk of their demands. As management scrambled to keep the store up and running, striking workers rallied outside the store with support from community members and low-wage workers from all over South Carolina.
“We are going on strike because Dollar General doesn’t protect us. I was a victim of robbery at work. Right after we got robbed—not even 15 minutes later—management was already telling me to open the store back up. I was shaken. This showed me that Dollar General really doesn’t care about our safety,” said Keshia Brown, an Assistant Manager at Dollar General in Holly Hill, South Carolina. “They want us to come to work for them and make them a billion dollar company and not say a word. But we need a voice and that’s why I believe we need a union.”
As of July 15, Dollar General had only partially met workers’ safety demands by cutting down the trees which blocked visibility and made the store an easy target for robberies, as well as clearing the crates which created fire hazards within the store’s aisles. “We’ve been asking Dollar General to do these things for months, but Dollar General didn’t listen until we threatened to go on strike. We’re following through with this strike because we have more problems that Dollar General has to fix,” said Taiwanna Milligan, a Dollar General worker and longtime member of Raise Up.
“Wage theft is a big issue at our store,” she continued. “I’ve had hours taken off my check, and management has clocked me out early when I’m still working. Dollar General doesn’t even try to hide it, and it’s happened to other workers too. We don’t have to put up with this.” Workers are pressing forward with complaints with the South Carolina Occupational Safety Health Administration, and intend to file a wage theft complaint with the South Carolina Department of Labor.
In addition to increased safety and fair pay, workers are also demanding the company reverse the unjust termination of their coworker Tara Johnson. “I was wrongfully fired by Dollar General, the day before we delivered our petition. I had to take my baby to the doctor and I let management know ahead of time. They said it was ok, but when I got to work they fired me on the spot. Now we’re demanding Dollar General give me my job back along with everything else,” said Johnson. “We have to stick together as workers because Dollar General doesn’t think about the best interest of us or our kids.”
There has been a nationwide upsurge of Dollar General workers organizing, particularly in the South. Just earlier this spring, Dollar General workers in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, and others went on strike. On May 25, delegations of Dollar General workers from all across the South protested the company’s shareholder meeting in Tennessee. Among the protesters were Taiwanna Milligan and Tara Johnson, two of the workers now on strike in Holly Hill. “This is what we need to move forward, to better ourselves, and to help everybody else that works in any fast food restaurant or any store anywhere,” Tara said of the importance of the strike.
This latest strike in Holly Hill will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration and strength for the wave of low-wage workers taking action and engaging in walk-off strikes across the south at Dollar General and beyond.