Behind the Scenes with Dollar General and Governor Sanders

Dollar Stores KABF Local 100 United Labor Unions

            Pearl River      Recently, I was critical of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders efforts to try to annex the state of Arkansas to the state of Florida, as a bridge way too far.  I cited her anti-LGBTQ initiatives, her racist education program, and her many copycat hires of Floridians who worked for the current and likely continuing governor there, Ron DeSantis.  I mean really, it’s not like Arkansas is Georgia or Alabama and is next door to Florida making that kind of Arkorida amalgamation possible.  Could be that she has outlawed geography from Arkansas schools in addition to civics and history?  I don’t know.

I do know that at a recent press conference slavishly promoting Dollar General she said something with the total ring of truth:

“Just as common in a one stoplight town as it is here in Little Rock, many of our citizens are challenged with food insecurity.

Without a doubt, many Arkansans are faced with food insecurity.  That’s indisputable.  It’s also a shame that Governor Sanders is doing little or nothing about it.

If only she had stopped with that statement and detailed what she and her administration were committed to doing about it.  But, no, instead she when from fact to fiction, saying…

Dollar General has stepped up to take that issue head on.”

Hardly!  Surely, she must know better, right?

I get it.  The CEO of Dollar General was promoting the fact that his company was opening a $159 million national distribution center in North Little Rock that might hire 300 workers and might furnish some fresh produce to some of its stores in the area and beyond, along with a mess of other things.  It’s the governor’s job to put sugar in that coffee and say thanks, but there’s no sense in pretending that Dollar General is going to do anything more about food insecurity, than, for example, the state of Arkansas under Governor Sanders herself.

Wearing my hat as station manager of KABF, I had gotten a press release inviting us to the event.  I suggested to Toney Orr, field director United Labor Unions Local 100 and board chair of Arkansas Broadcasting Foundation, that if he was in town, it might be worth him going to represent and give a listen, since we have been following Dollar General and the governor closely.  So, he did.

Toney is not a small man, at around six feet and halfway to seven, he played basketball at Ouachita Baptist University.  He’s hard to ignore.  He ended up standing next to DG’s CEO Jeff Owen, so he asked him what he was doing about the well-publicized and researched labor issues with the company from turnover to low pay, and could he interview him on his labor show for KABF.  Owen, showing the same lightness on his feet and quick tongue as he had earlier about food insecurity, said, “Sure, talk to my communications person to set it up” and pointed her out to brother Orr.  He promptly did so, and she walked over to Owen to follow-up.   Toney saw Owen talking to her with a stern look on his face and finger wagging.  For the rest of the event, she made sure she was on the other side of the room from Toney, and unavailable.  No surprise.

The governor herself was also nearby.  Local 100 represents state employees throughout Arkansas who the governor has targeted in every way imaginable by blocking new hiring, freezing raises already awarded, and on and on.  Toney politely introduced himself and reminded her that he represented state workers and had been meeting with various legislators and department heads, and asked if he could meet with her about the issues public workers were facing under her administration.  Did I say earlier that Dollar General’s CEO was quick on his feet?  Indeed, I did, but that was nothing like the way that Governor Sanders demonstrated a hard cut and spin move to get away from Toney in a maneuver that many a wide receiver in the professional ranks would have recognized to the applause of football fans everywhere.

Not that any of the press noticed.  The promo event must have pleased Dollar General and the governor.  All the TV stations, the local NPR station, and what’s left of the local papers covered the event with bright smiles and tongues wagging.  Maybe they’ll get some advertising?  KABF won’t be expecting any underwriting, but at least we know the rest of the story on this company and the state’s fiction about food, their business, and their workers, and now, so do you.