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COMMENTARY: “DOLLAR GENERAL FIRED ME FOR ORGANIZING ESSENTIAL CO-WORKERS”

The following is commentary from Daniel Stone, who was recently terminated by Dollar General. 

My name is Daniel Stone. On April 27th I was terminated from my role at Dollar General Corporate for organizing essential coworkers.

This termination came after months of efforts to organize & connect with my fellow coworkers in stores, distribution centers and elsewhere.

As the pandemic began to assert itself across all corners of the economy, I focused intently on how my company would act on behalf of my coworkers. Ultimately, as my emails asking about hazard pay, PPE and more for these coworkers were met with generic corporate responses, myself & others began to act.

We have created a movement of Dollar General workers & that will not end with my termination.

The company tried to silence one voice, but in reality, the voices only get louder.

My actions began in March when I sent emails to Kathy Reardon, the Chief People Officer, asking about the CEO’s COVID-19 video that was emailed to all of us. In those emails, I asked about Paid Sick Leave & more for our fellow associates. Her response was ultimately unhelpful to the plights of the workers, but she did mention her gratitude for Employees like me.

I totally feel that gratitude now.

I continued my efforts, emailing Kathy, but she stopped responding. It became clear to me that the Chief People Officer’s concerns did not include the People in office, store and elsewhere.

I shifted my efforts to Human Resources shortly after that, since I figured that maybe I had a better shot of convincing HR to hear my coworkers grievances and perhaps they could then enact change. That was not the case.

In Mid-March, when Corporate dished out bonuses for white-collar workers, including me, and they were in the thousands while our fellow associates in stores were given bonuses of $300, $200 & $100 (before tax!) it became even clearer — This company will do whatever they need to to protect their rich investors while quite literally sending people to contract this virus, all for breadcrumbs.

One of my emails was to Nichole Wheeler, HR Manager, in which I asked her if Corporate Employees could work in stores on weekends. As I had gone in stores to get groceries for my own household, I had spoken to coworkers about the concerns they shared and decided to ask HR about this possibility.

HR shot that idea down and this was a turning point for me.

Dollar General was comfortable sending workers across the chain in for work everyday during a pandemic, with degrading wages & little to no protection against the virus, but we as corporate workers were not allowed to show solidarity with our coworkers?

It’s shameful.

After other correspondences with Nichole it became evident that the company was not interested in engaging with me & my coworkers. Stories of workers being unable to feed their children, pregnant women scared to work during this virus, hours being cut despite a temporary, laughable, one-dollar raise for Part-Time workers and so many more.

These stories are what led me to engage in protected concerted activity with my coworkers & the support of UFCW 655 in Missouri.

Workers are tired of asking companies for their empathy, now, we demand fairness.

On ~4/13/20, Corporate Employees who were still working in the building, few of which were in mine, could have access to 5 wired masks a week. On ~4/20/20, multiple workers had confirmed that Dollar General was sending them literal t-shirt cutouts as masks.

Across Georgia, Arkansas, Pennsylvania & elsewhere my coworkers were being subjected to this virus, with low pay as it is, and now they’ve been sent T-Shirts to protect themselves and their families? This was insulting, not to mention completely ineffective.

A company making billions in profits, that could afford to pay their executive team nearly $24 million dollar in total compensation in 2019 couldn’t even give workers on the ground the basic respect of a mask.

Eventually, my efforts came to a head on 4/27/20 when I was terminated for what the company cited was bad blood towards the company as well as negative emails.

I’m still not sure how asking about hazard pay, PPE & whether or not corporate workers, who are coworkers with people in stores, can go in in our free time to help, is negative  – but that’s for their conscience to debate, not mine.

Myself & others inside that building know the treatment that our fellow associates are experiencing and for that we organized. At the time of writing this, across all platforms, we have recruited 300+ DG employees to join this movement. From March to my termination in April we reached out to numerous people with the same message of organizing to force Dollar General to recognize our plights.

When one of us is unable to feed our child, we speak up.

When one of us is seeing their hourly wage go from $7.25 to $8.25 but their hours go from 30 to 12, we speak up.

I am hurt to be away from my team at Dollar General, and hope they’re doing well, but myself & others could not sit by while fellow associates are being abused and their bodies being crushed to dust for the good of a company that would replace them tomorrow if they could save a penny.

Workers are tired of asking companies for their empathy. Now, we demand fairness.

In closing, I want to request that if you have spare funds during this pandemic that you give something to a Workers Rights advocacy group, a Union, anything that you feel can advance the cause of Workers Rights. In this country, corporations rely on campaign financing as well as a general Anti-Worker sentiment that we have to change.

Additionally, I want to give a quick shoutout to a few people who have taught me how to organize, how to know what my/others rights are as a worker, and who gave me personally the courage to keep going:

Billy Myers — Organizing Director, UFCW 655

Ashley Bachelder — Interim Co-Director, Workers Dignity/Dignidad Obrera

Vonda McDaniel — President, CLC Nashville Lori — DG Associate/Coworker

Judd Legum — Popular Info

All Coworkers and Associates of Dollar General who continue fighting for the respect, protection & wages they deserve.

Please contact me at DanielStoneBusiness@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for any questions.

Thank you for reading.

 

VIDEO: From the Front Lines of the UAW Strike In Spring Hill

“We appreciate the support. We’re in it for the long haul. We’re gonna fight the good fight.” ‬

‪Striking UAW Local 1853 workers in Spring Hill, TN say the middle class is disappearing, it’s the haves and have-nots… and GM wants to keep it that way.

Yesterday some were arrested on the picket lines for “disorderly conduct”, including UAW president Tim Stannard. They are out of jail, but the DA says he will be pressing charges.

Meanwhile GM has CUT OFF the health benefits of the striking workers, another reminder that health care should be a RIGHT in this country, not a privilege bestowed upon us by the wealthy who can dangle our lives in front of us.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles was out there saying he wants their health coverage restored, but it’s worth remembering Ogles was a leader of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed organization that helped block Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, keeping 300,000 without coverage. Suddenly he cares about folks being able to see doctors?

#UnionStrong #StandWithUAW ‬

Message of Support From Germany To Chattanooga VW Workers

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga will soon be deciding whether or not to unionize. Governor Lee recently made a trip over there to encourage them not to, and was loudly booed for his efforts.

Here’s a good article about the situation and the tactics employed by management by Chris Brooks, who covers union issues:

Managers have handed out flyers tying the UAW to plant closures. In a captive-audience meeting, CEO Frank Fischer implied that the UAW was to blame for the 1988 closure of a Volkswagen plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.

This week Jorg Hoffman, chair of IG Metall and Deputy chair of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, sent a message of support to the Volkswagen workers encouraging them to unionize and reprimanding VW Chattanooga’s management for allowing anti-union lawyers to continue to try to influence the process.

“Chattanooga’s management has the clear directive from headquarters in Germany to stay neutral in the election,” Hoffman says. “I am really disappointed management has not been neutral. They have been neutral verbally, but their actions have been the opposite.”

Hoffman goes on to say that anti-union lawyers were ordered away from the plant, but that they continue to advise management off-site.

“We denounce the use of fear in this campaign by Chattanooga management,” he says, adding that “voting yes will not endanger your plant or your jobs” and that all over the world unions and management are working trustfully together.”

Hoffman makes a good point. Here in America, unions have been under attack for decades by management and the politicians they control. But in other countries, like Germany, for instance,  workers have seats on the boards of companies, and therefore have a say in the direction of the company’s.

The relationship is therefore far less adversarial, as workers feel ownership, participate in the good times as well, and make concessions during the bad.

Many Germans attribute this arrangement to Germany’s economic success. Imagine that – unions being empowered and appreciated rather than attacked and dismantled.

The numbers don’t lie – unions and the middle class go hand in hand. The union authorization election runs Wednesday through Friday this week; 1,700 workers are eligible to vote.

From Labor Notes:

“I’m only 33 and I can’t see myself working here for another 10 years,” said Ashley Murray. “I would be disabled by then. We need a union because they are a multibillion-dollar company and they treat us like shit.”

Murray is a production employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of 18 hourly employees there I interviewed for this story. Comments like hers were almost universal.

Volkswagen was wooed to Chattanooga in 2008 with a $554 million subsidy package from the state and local governments… It was the largest taxpayer handout ever given to a foreign-owned automaker up to that moment, and remains the largest subsidy deal in Tennessee history. The deal came free of any job or investment requirements.

More from Labor Notes on the conditions at VW:

The current starting wage for a production worker at the factory is $15.50 an hour and pay tops out at $23 an hour, or around $48,000 per year without overtime.

Volkswagen provides the lowest pay and benefits of any automaker in the U.S., according to a 2015 report by the Center for Automotive Research.

If you agree Governor Lee and Chattanooga management should keep their hands off the election – and others in the future – Holler at him HERE.

VIDEO: Rep. Jim Cooper Fires Up The Crowd At The CLC Lunch

This week Rep. Jim Cooper visited the Central Labor Council lunch in Nashville and spoke to a rapt audience about the need for unity and togetherness in the coming election, when the labor movement would be a key part of a “winning strategy” in the hopes of preserving key programs like Medicare and social security.

Cooper spoke about rampant inequality the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age, acknowledged that the system isn’t fair, but reminded everyone that “the rich people are out there voting”.

Watch the HIGHLIGHTS: