Workers Without A/C, Store Closes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – ABC Columbia News got results for local employees working without air conditioning. The icebox outside the Dollar General on Oak Street is where shoppers wish they could go to escape what it feels like on the inside. Customer Stacy Haynes says, “It’s hot in there. I’d rather be outside than in there.” Customer Patricia Ann Gibbs says, “I have a little touch of asthma, not bad, and it felt like I was getting shortness of breath.”

Employees and customers at the store have been without air conditioning for at least 3 weeks. State Representative Leon Howard turned to ABC Columbia News after customers and employees complained to him about the conditions. He says workers have been afraid to speak up to managers. Rep. Howard says, ”They need their jobs. It’s almost like going back to the days when black people were picking cotton. They had some master ruling them because they weren’t allowed to say anything.”

ABC Columbia’s Robin Kanady put in a call to Tawn Earnest in corporate communications for Dollar General. Within an hour and a half of that phone call, it was a different scene at the Dollar General. The parking lot was empty except for a ladder and repairmen. The store has been shut down until there’s a permanent fix. ABC Columbia News asked Earnest why it took 3 weeks to close the store and put up a sign that reads “closed for repairs.” She says repairmen have come in on multiple occasions and that management thought the air conditioning would be fixed each time, but they finally realized they had to do something else.

District Manager Charles Miller says, “A contractor failed to order the right parts, and that caused the delay. We have been working on the process (of getting repairs done) the whole time.”

Gibbs says the store made the right call to close. She says, “I think so, for people’s health and other reasons.” The store should re-open by the end of the week.

Employees are being re-located to work in other Dollar General stores while repairs are being made at the Oak Street location. There are two other area stores, one on Taylor Street and another on Beltline Boulevard.