A call to action by a trio of former Dollar General employees in Maine went viral after they announced their resignations on Twitter.
Berndt Erikson’s first posted aa photograph declaring the group’s intent on May 3 2021.
“Got real tired of all those ‘no one wants to work’ signs on closing stores,” they wrote, making reference to the false idea that employees are refusing to work out of laziness or comfort, rather than concern for their safety. “This is how my coworker and I quit our job today. Speak truth to power!”
Got real tired of all those “no one wants to work” signs on closing stores. This is how my coworker and I quit our job today. Speak truth to power! pic.twitter.com/MlHRD9wvu8
— ☭ ♥️Berndt♥️Erikson♥️☭ (@Berndt_LVS) May 3, 2021
The photo spread further when Andy O’Brien, the communications director for the Maine state AFL-CIO, reposted it alongside the caption, “Looks like the workers at the Dollar General in Eliot, Maine have had enough!”
— Andy "Pass the PRO Act" O'Brien (@aobrien2010) May 4, 2021
The photo showed four signs attached to the store door, including one calling on onlookers to look up “general strike” — a coordinated protest action in which a significant portion of a local workforce walks off of their job sites — and thanking the store’s customers for treating them with respect.
“Closed indefinitely because Dollar General doesn’t pay a living wage or treat their employees with respect,” read another sign, placed atop the follow-up statement, “Capitalism will destroy this country. If you don’t pay people enough to live their lives, why should they slave away for you?”
Erikson told the Maine Beacon that the company — which operates 17,000 stores around the United States — has been having difficulty keeping the store staffed, and that one manager had quit not long before Erikson did, after working at least 70 hours a week without overtime pay.
“The manager decided to quit because she was working seven days a week,” they said. “With her being paid salary, if you did the math, she was getting less than the minimum wage.”
They also accused company management of ignoring their requests to increase wages at the store; Erikson said they had been supporting both themself and their brother on a salary of $13.25 an hour.
“I’ve been paying all the bills for the past year and a half now,” they said. “It’s the most stressed I think I’ve ever been in my life.”
We contacted Dollar General seeking comment on Erikson’s claim. The company did not respond, but it did send a statement to local news outlet WMTW-TV, which said, “Out of respect for these individuals, as well as the value we place on open and direct communication with our employees, we do not plan to comment on their employment status further. Our Eliot store remains open to provide the York County community with convenient, affordable access to everyday essentials.”
Dollar General has been repeatedly accused of both mistreating employees and moving to stifle them from organizing. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in February 2020 that the company must recognize a vote by employees at a store in Auxvasse, Missouri, to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 in future bargaining efforts.