FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–April 28, 2020

Kenya Slaughter Never Planned to be a Front-line Worker, but That’s Exactly What She’s Become

Kenya Slaughter, an organizer and a frontline worker at a Dollar General in Alexandria, LA, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this past Sunday talking about how she never expected to become a frontline worker, and how her employer hasn’t provided the support she and her colleagues need during this time.

NEW ORLEANS, LA | April 28, 2020—This past Sunday, April 26, the New York Times published a moving Op-Ed written by Kenya Slaughter. Ms. Slaughter, who lives in Alexandria, LA, is a frontline worker at a Dollar General there. She followed up her piece in the Times by being featured on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Monday evening.

“I’m afraid to catch the coronavirus,” Kenya writes in her Op-Ed, titled ‘I Never Planned to Be a Front-Line Worker at Dollar General’. “More than 300 customers come in each day. I’m constantly reminding people to stay six feet apart, but there’s no way to limit the number of people in the store, especially when I’m the only person working.”

Kenya is an organizer with Step Up Louisiana, which is a partner of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ–http://powercoalition.org), where she is a leader in the Unleash Local campaign. The campaign aims to remove the state ban on local control of sick leave and minimum wage policies. Her story is especially powerful because it speaks to the experiences of frontline workers across this state and all over the country. She often works the store alone, trying to control a chaotic situation. She was bringing her own PPE from home until recently, when the store finally started providing it.

“Not really, not really,” Kenya replied when Lemon asked her about customers adhering to the six-foot social-distancing rule. “We have no one there to enforce it. I try to crack jokes like ‘Hey, we have a one cough maximum’. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

During her discussion with Lemon, Kenya went over many of the points she made in her New York Times piece. Most notably, they talked about how Dollar General workers can’t get paid sick leave unless they actually contract the disease, and how workers aren’t being tested or getting their temperatures checked before starting their shifts. She also pointed out that the company isn’t offering hazard pay like many other employers. Instead, Dollar General is offering full-time employees a one-time $300 bonus, and part-time employees are getting half that. It’s an amount that Kenya described as “insulting.”

Kenya was also a fellow in PCEJ’s ‘She Leads’ program. As part of that program, which provides grants and training to women of color in Louisiana to support their community organizing and activism, Kenya developed a program that offers mental health support groups for families with children who have disabilities.

“Kenya’s growth through the She Leads! Program has been remarkable, and she was already starting from a strong foundation,” said PCEJ Program Director Janea Jamison. “The Power Coalition’s investment in women-led activism is one of the most powerful levers we have to fight back against structural and systemic racism, and storytelling is essential to that process. Kenya Slaughter is a real person–she is a mother, a sister, a friend, and a community organizer. As Black women, we often have to share our stories and stand up for others to raise awareness of the injustices that plague our communities. I hope many other leaders like Kenya will share their stories and the stories of others who are on the ground.”

This pandemic is continually exposing the inequities that have long harmed our people and our society as a whole. The disrespectful way we treat our workers, and the underlying racial and class issues that drive that disrespect, has been among the most poignant of those.  

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities, with a focus on communities of color. We are a coalition of groups from across Louisiana whose mission is to organize in impacted communities, educate and turn out voters, and fight for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.

Featured image:   William Widmer for The New York Times

Who: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice   

What: Kenya Slaughter, a frontline worker in Alexandria, LA, who is also a Power Coalition for Equity and Justice She Leads! Fellow, member of our partner organization Step Up Louisiana, and a leader in the Unleash Local campaign, tells her story in a New York Times Op-Ed and on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.

When: April 28, 2020

Contacts:

Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, ashelton@powercoalition.org

Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, prb@powercoalition.org