Dollar General Shareholders Vote for Independent Audit into Worker Safety

Dollar General Shareholders Vote for Independent Audit into Worker Safety

Dollar General shareholders have passed a resolution to commission an independent audit into worker safety. The proposal, brought by Domini Impact Investments, aims to examine the company’s policies and practices and how they affect the safety and well-being of workers. The audit is to be conducted by an independent, third-party and will 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 yet to be seen whether the proposal is binding.

Dollar General’s board recommended shareholders to vote against the measure and has not confirmed whether 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. The company 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.

Safety Hazards and Violations

As Dollar General has expanded its footprint across America, it has accumulated more than $21 million in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety hazards. These hazards include blocked fire exits, blocked electrical outlets, and dangerous levels of clutter. 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. Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff and senior policy advisor at OSHA, said that “[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.”

Dollar General has become a hot spot for gun violence, which has led to 49 people being killed and 172 people being injured at Dollar General stores by gun violence since 2014, according to data from Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organisation.

During the shareholder meeting at Dollar General’s corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tenn., company stocker David Williams expressed the dire need for the audit as activists rallied outside of the building. Williams pointed to the financial implications of Dollar General’s safety issues. He said, “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.” Williams also highlighted the issue of understaffing, stating that “It is not uncommon for a worker to be alone in a store at night in areas where robberies commonly occur.”

Company Response

Dollar General’s spokesperson stated, “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 company’s response does not address the specific concerns raised in the independent audit proposal.

Dollar General shareholders have voted for an independent audit into worker safety after the company has faced mounting pressure to improve conditions. The audit will examine the company’s policies and practices and how they affect the safety and well-being of workers, including practices that contribute to an unsafe or violent environment. With repeated safety violations and gun violence incidents, the audit is a necessary step to ensure the safety of employees and customers.


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