NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A civil rights advocate says he and two Dollar General store workers were denied access to the company's shareholder meeting Wednesday in Tennessee where they had been outside protesting for better pay and workplace safety improvements.
The Rev. William Barber II told The Associated Press he and the two workers sought to enter the meeting inside Goodlettsville City Hall with their proxy paperwork, but were told they could not go in after the meeting's start time. Video posted to social media shows Barber approach the meeting room's door, saying multiple times that “We are shareholders,” to which a person staffing the meeting said, “I hear you. We just closed the check-in.”
Barber also repeatedly knocked on the room's door and said, “We don't want to disrupt. We didn't come here for violence. We're shareholders.”
Barber said he was attending as a proxy representative for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, which he said means the group owned at least $2,000 in stocks in the company for at least three years. The two workers were acting as proxies for others, Barber added. He later said the people staffing the sign-in area saw them through the doors as they were about to enter and quickly began to pack up.
In a statement, Tennessee-based Dollar General said the meeting began “promptly” at its start time.
“We are unaware of any individual, including Reverend Barber, who sought access to the meeting at or before that time and was denied access,” the company said, in effect stating Barber and the two others showed up late.
Barber noted the meeting was in a public building, and said he saw nothing that specified ahead of time or while he was there that he wouldn't be allowed in after the meeting's start time.
Barber is the national co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, a national demonstration against poverty Martin Luther King Jr. was planning, as revived by activists with the goal of ending systemic racism.
The groups that protested with Dollar General workers outside the building included Step Up Louisiana, United for Respect, Fight for $15 and a Union, #Putinaticket and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The groups have called workplace conditions at the stores “shameful,” pointing to federal workplace safety citations, and decried pay there as “poverty wages.”