UCF Lauds Dollar Tree Settlement with OSHA
$1.35 Million Agreement Follows Years of Stakeholder Activism
On August 23, Dollar Tree, Inc., one of the nation’s largest retailers, reached a wide-ranging worker safety agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Under the terms of the agreement, Dollar Tree will pay $1.35 million and make multiple changes to its business practices related to unsafe working conditions. Those conditions include overcrowding of workspaces with boxes, blocked exits, blocked access to fire extinguishers and electrical panels, and improper material storage.
Dollar Tree will also have to pay $100,000 per day, up to a total of $500,000, for any future violations of the agreement reported by workers and not corrected within 48 hours.
As a shareholder of Dollar Tree, United Church Funds (UCF) applauds this agreement. “We’ve been calling for improved employee safety measures at Dollar Tree for over two years,” said Matthew Illian, UCF’s Director of Responsible Investing. “And in partnership with groups like the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Step Up Louisiana, we’re now seeing that persistent, collective shareholder advocacy yields real results.”
Illian noted, however, that while the OSHA settlement marks a significant advancement in workers’ rights, it falls short of UCF’s goals. The settlement only covers Dollar Tree workers in the 27 U.S. states that participate in the federal OSHA program (the other 23 states operate their own worker health and safety operations). Also, the agreement includes language about worker discipline that suggests that future safety violations could be blamed on low-level employees, rather than a lack of sufficient staffing and poor management.
“What we don’t want is for workers to be scapegoated when the company fails to protect them,” says Illian. “Moreover, we want workers in all states to be protected, not just in those that conform to federal OSHA guidelines. So we’ll be working with our partners to pressure OSHA to make future agreements with all dollar store workers more comprehensive.”
Based in Virginia, Dollar Tree, Inc., which owns both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, oversees more than 16,000 stores across 48 U.S. states and Canada, employing over 193,000 people.
In addition to its engagements with Dollar Tree, UCF has been using its leverage as a shareholder to advocate for improved working conditions and fair pay for employees at Dollar General, another major retailer. On May 31, 68% of Dollar General shareholders approved a resolution co-filed by UCF and led by Domini Impact Investing, calling for an independent third-party audit to look at how the company’s policies and practices are impacting worker safety.
UCF was also the lead filer in 2023 of a shareholder resolution calling for a compensation report to address wage gaps at Dollar Tree. In 2022, Dollar Tree paid its CEO close to $14 million, while the typical employee earns just $14,702 a year.
Illian stressed the importance of advocating for basic employee needs: “In corporate America today, there is a pervasive culture that treats retail and other entry-level workers as expenses to be minimized. We see this not only as unjust but also bad for the long-term health of the economy. We seek remedy for poor working conditions and poverty wages, and this agreement with OSHA shows that this kind of change is achievable, as long as we keep the pressure on.”
The two shareholder resolutions filed with Dollar Tree and Dollar General were among 11 that UCF served as lead filer or co-filer in 2023. Of these, three resolutions – with Keysight, HCA Healthcare and Phillips 66 – were withdrawn after the companies agreed to make meaningful changes.
“It’s clear that shareholder engagement is an effective strategy,” says Illian. “And it will remain central to what we do at UCF.”