(CNN) -- Dollar General is the fastest-growing retailer in the United States, opening about 1,000 stores a year. But after repeated violent incidents and federal workplace safety violations in stores, some Dollar General workers and labor advocates are calling for stronger safety and health protections.

Workers and their allies rallied outside Dollar General's headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, on Wednesday ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting to protest working conditions. The workers allege that the company is not taking basic precautions to prevent violence in its stores.

Since 2014, there have been 49 deaths and 172 injuries at Dollar General stores, according to data from the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive. A CNN investigation in 2020 found that at least six store employees died during armed robberies between 2016 and 2020.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited unsafe conditions at dozens of Dollar General stores in recent years.

Since 2017, the federal agency has proposed fines of more than $21 million against Dollar General. Inspectors frequently encountered hallways, emergency exits, fire extinguishers and electrical panels blocked by merchandise and boxes stacked unsafely, according to the agency.

Dollar General's position in low-income communities, especially in the South, where gun laws and worker protections are lax, contributes to this violent trend, former company executives, store employees, law enforcement officials and retail safety experts have previously told CNN.


In October, Dollar General was included in OSHA's "Serious Violations Compliance Program." The program directs agency resources to employers cited for "intentional, repeated or omission violations and indifference" in providing a safe and healthy workplace.

The trend is not unique to Dollar General. Retail is the second most common place for mass shootings (after the workplace), according to the Violence Project, a nonprofit group. But workers say the company should do more to protect their safety and that business practices such as understaffing in stores make them unsafe.

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Employees of Dollar General and the advocacy group Step Up Louisiana are calling on the company to create a new staffing position to promote store safety, allocate more hours and employees to stores so that no worker is ever alone on site, provide paid time off and compensation for mental health resources after violent or dangerous incidents in stores, and provide Workers more participation in safety policies.

"Dollar General continues to expose its employees to unsafe conditions in its stores across the country," Doug Parker, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, said this month. The company must make "enterprise-wide changes to protect the safety and well-being of its employees," he added.

Domini Impact Investments, an activist investment firm, also filed a shareholder resolution calling for an independent auditor to evaluate Dollar General's job security policies. The auditor should examine staffing levels in stores and consult with workers to design solutions, Domini says.

Dollar General's board of directors called on shareholders to reject the proposal, calling it unnecessary. The company says it conducts hundreds of safety checks and audits every day across all of its stores and consults employees with their opinions and concerns.

Dollar General did not respond to CNN's request for comment on the workers' safety demands.

The demonstration and shareholder resolution reflect growing pressure to draw attention to working conditions at Dollar General. The company has about 19,000 stores throughout the country, mainly in rural areas, and its workforce amounts to about 160,000 people. About 92% of Dollar General's hourly workers earn less than $15 an hour, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute and the Shift Project.

Workers are also protesting safety conditions at Dollar Tree stores.

That company, which also owns the Family Dollar chain, has been cited for more than 300 federal and state OSHA workplace safety violations since 2017.

"The company's repeated and ongoing disregard for human safety suggests that the company thinks profits matter more than people," OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer said in February.

Dollar Tree did not respond to comments about the OSHA violations.

Dollar Tree faces a shareholder resolution on workers' compensation at its annual meeting next month. Dollar Tree employs more than 200,000 people. His median salary is $13,490, below the federal poverty line.

The proposal, put forward by activist investment firm United Church Funds, calls for the company to publish a report on whether Dollar Tree applies pay and labor practices that prioritize company performance over the economic and social costs of income inequality.

The company's board of directors said it offers competitive wages and benefits to employees, and has increased workers' compensation over the past two years. The board asked shareholders to reject the proposal.

Dollar Tree EmployeesGun Violence