US: Dollar Stores – Top link in the sweatshop chain


Abel Lopez was a busy man. The El Paso resident’s job with Family Dollar, Inc. averaged 60-80 hours a week. A former graphic designer and ad man from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Lopez spent his days unloading trucks, processing freight, scouring toilets, running cash registers, cleaning, shelving, changing prices, doing inventory, and covering for other employees. As a bonus, he was even held up by armed robbers.

Like others at Family Dollar who wind up spending most of their time doing grunt work, Lopez bore the title of manager. He contends that the company routinely classifies regular workers as managers in order to categorize them as exempt employees and in doing so ensure they are not subject to the overtime provisions of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (See box.)

Family Dollar is one of a growing group of chain-store corporations that cater to America’s poor by selling cheap goods, many imported from sweatshops in low-wage countries including China and Mexico.

Critics of the two largest dollar store chains, Family Dollar and Dollar General, contend that the companies extract super-profits from the uncompensated labor of overworked store “managers” and other employees.

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