Dollar General shareholders pass proposal to improve worker safety

Key Points
  • A proposal asking Dollar General's board to commission an independent, third-party audit that would examine the company's policies and practices and how it affects worker safety was passed by shareholders during the company's annual meeting.
  • Dollar General is facing mounting pressure from regulators, activists and employees to improve working conditions.
  • The company is currently facing more than $21 million in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety hazards.

In this article

The exterior of a Dollar General convenience store is seen in Austin, Texas, on March 16, 2023.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Dollar General shareholders passed a resolution Wednesday to create an independent audit into worker safety, as the retailer faces mounting pressure to improve conditions. 

The proposal, brought by Domini Impact Investments, asked Dollar General's board to commission an independent, third-party audit that would examine the company's policies and practices and how they affect the safety and well-being of workers

It recommended the audit include an evaluation of practices that contribute to an unsafe or violent environment, such as staffing capacity. It also recommends the analysis include discussions with workers and customers to inform solutions, as well as recommendations for actions to take and regular reporting about progress made on those efforts. 

It is not clear if the proposal is binding.

Dollar General's board recommended shareholders vote against the measure. The company didn't answer when asked if it plans to conduct the audit.

"We are awaiting the final report and will report the final results in a Form 8-K within the required period," a company spokesperson said.

"We strive to create a work environment where employees are able to grow their careers, serve their local communities and feel valued and heard, and we encourage employees to share their feedback through the many company-provided channels so that we can listen and work together to address concerns and challenges, as well as to celebrate successes," the spokesperson added.

The company is the fastest-growing retailer in the country by store count. It employs more than 170,000 full- and part-time employees across more than 19,000 stores in 47 states and Mexico as of March, according to a securities filing. It plans to open an additional 1,050 stores in fiscal 2023 and announced more store openings than any other retailer in 2022, according to Coresight Research, a retail-focused advisory firm.

As Dollar General expanded its footprint across America, it has racked up more than $21 million in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a slew of safety hazards, including blocked fire exits, blocked electrical outlets and dangerous levels of clutter. 

During the shareholder meeting at Dollar General's corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, company stocker David Williams expressed the dire need for the audit as activists rallied outside the building. 

"I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of Dollar General employees that come into work every day scared for our safety. We're scared because we know that the leaders of Dollar General are not looking out for the safety of workers," Williams said in his address to shareholders. "The company has expanded so fast and so recklessly, that on any given day, I might have to deal with a rat infestation, a door that won't lock or someone pointing their gun at me with no security to protect me." 

Williams pointed to the financial implications of Dollar General's safety issues. 

"Violations include aisles, emergency exits, fire extinguishers and electrical panels blocked by boxes of merchandise stacked up to six feet high. This could lead to fires where workers and customers aren't able to get out of the store or boxes falling on workers or customers when they navigate the aisles trying to squeeze around them," said Williams, citing findings from OSHA and personal experience.

"This is all made worse by the serious level of understaffing. It is not uncommon for a worker to be alone in a store at night in areas where robberies commonly occur," he added.

The repeated OSHA violations have led the agency to label Dollar General a "severe violator," a title reserved for companies that continuously fail to rectify safety concerns. 

″[It's] a program for the worst safety violators in the nation. It is totally rare for a large employer with many work sites to be in the severe violator program. Most companies in their program are small construction companies," Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff and senior policy advisor at OSHA, said previously. 

Beyond fire hazards and dangerous levels of clutter, Dollar General has become a hot spot for gun violence. Since 2014, 49 people have been killed and 172 people have been injured at Dollar General stores by gun violence, according to data from Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit.