APACHE — On Monday, amid morning temperatures already above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and projected to break 100, customers at the Dollar General Store in Apache were met with an unusual sight.
Every employee at the store was standing outside, their cars in the lot adorned with large signs, each proclaiming that the store was closed, and would remain closed until the Dollar General corporation stepped in to look into the store’s lack of sufficient air conditioning.
“We’ve been putting in work orders and complaints for at least a month and a half,” Rachel Minchow, the assistant store manager, said. “Each time, they push it to the side.”
As the day wore on, and the temperatures began to press ever closer to the forecast 100 degrees, many of the employees left the spur-of-the-moment demonstration, with only the store manager staying behind to wait for someone to come and fix the air conditioning. A few hand-written notices were left on the door for would-be shoppers, the longest of which left no question who the employees feel is to blame for the closure.
“Dear customers,” the sign read. “We are sorry to inform you that we will be closed due to no A/C in store. It is 85°F in store and rising. We will open as soon as DG fixes issue.”
Minchow said that the Dollar General corporate office would likely be most upset by the presence of the signs, but said she was prepared to lose her job if it meant her complaints would be heard.
“I’ll probably be fired for this, but that’s how it goes I guess,” Minchow said. “This is the first time I’ve really stood up for anything.”
Minchow said that the idea had occurred to her and another manager the previous day when temperatures inside were still well above 80 degrees at close of business.
On a brief walk through the Apache store, Minchow paid particular attention to the temperature gauge in the back room. The gauge showed what each unit’s temperature was set to, and what the actual temperature measurement at each unit was. Each unit was set to 75 degrees, with the actual measured temperature at each location ranging between 84 and 86 degrees.
The demonstration in Apache follows a coordinated walk-out at Dollar General locations in Virginia and North Carolina on May 2. This was the first coordinated labor action taken by employees at the company in its history.
The mass walk-out was prompted by the firing of Mary Gundel, a Dollar General manager in Tampa, Fla., who posted a viral TikTok in which she discussed the poor working conditions at her location, according to a report by iFIBER One News, a publication based in Washington state.
The TikTok sparked a flood of similar videos from other Dollar General Employees, eventually leading to both the mass walk out, and the US Department of Labor proposing $3.3 million in fines to be levied on the company for Occupational Health and Safety Administration violations.
Minchow said that the walk-out at her store would likely result in her being fired before the changes are implemented, she feels what she is doing is for employees that come after her, and for the customers who shop at the store, the majority of whom are elderly.
“We have customers who won’t come in because it’s too hot for them,” Minchow said. “Customers complain that candy is melted. Every day, even if I’m just standing still, checking people out, I’m pouring sweat. That shouldn’t happen.”
Minchow said that the lack of air conditioning was her biggest day to day complaint, and that if it were fixed, she and the other employees would be happy with the job.
“Everything else would be absolutely fine with me,” Minchow said. “If they fixed this the A/C, I’d be perfectly happy.”
When contacted in the late afternoon on Monday, Minchow said that the air conditioning in the store had not been fixed, but that Dollar General had sent in a team of employees to open the store while the current employees are on strike.
“It’s sad, but I don’t know what to do about it,” Minchow said. “I guess they’re just not going to fix it.”
Representatives from the Dollar General corporate office did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment.