Workers are seeking unions at Starbucks, Dollar General and Amazon locations. Here’s why that matters

Shellie Parsons never thought she’d be supporting an effort to win union representation at the Dollar General store where she’s worked for a bit more than a year.

“I was actually against unions,” said the 37-year-old single mom. “I’d heard a lot of bad things about the unions.” She liked her store manager at the Dollar General in Barkhamsted, Connecticut. She considers the other employees in the store to be like family: “I wake up and I want to go to work,” she said. But she and other employees didn’t like how her store manager’s bosses treated him, and they particularly didn’t like the lack of respect they said they felt from Dollar General’s upper management. The company did not comment on Parson’s allegations.

A year of working during a pandemic, feeling at risk of catching Covid for a job paying only a little more than minimum wage, changed Parsons’ attitude about the need for a union. She was willing to vote for the United Food and Commercial Workers in a vote held Friday morning, even though she said Dollar General managers have threatened that they might close their store if the union wins.

“I’m tired of being treated unfairly. Our voices need to be heard,” she said. Asked what she hopes unionization will accomplish, she said, “We hope to be treated fairly. We want the respect and acknowledgment of our work. We want to get paid what we should be getting paid, including holiday pay.” The results of the vote were not known Friday because of two challenged ballots among the seven people who voted. But whichever way the vote goes, Dollar General (DG) is not alone. Workers are trying to grab a foothold for unions at other major nonunion employers, too.