Faced with a widespread backlash over its elimination of greeter jobs that can be held by people with disabilities, Walmart is backtracking, maybe. The president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores sent out a memo—and provided it to the press—saying that “If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen.” That’s nice, and it’s a clear indication of the pressure the company has come under, but it’s nowhere near a commitment to workers with disabilities.
Walmart’s greeter position has long been an opportunity for people who can’t stand for long periods or lift heavy weights, but recently the retail chain announced that it would be phasing out those jobs and replacing them with “customer hosts” who have to be able to lift 25 pounds, clean spills, and in some cases climb ladders. That was a major blow to many of the people for whom those greeter jobs have been a lifeline. “I don’t want to lose this job. This is a real job I have,” one man told National Public Radio, saying that his biggest concern was being able to feed his rescue dog.
Former greeters in multiple states have filed Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaints or lawsuits against Walmart after their jobs were eliminated or changed to jobs that require standing, climbing, or lifting. After the recent outcry, Walmart announced that it would give greeters extra time to find replacement jobs they could do, and then, when that failed to quell the outrage, came the “make every effort” memo. “We are looking into each [case] on an individual basis with the goal of offering appropriate accommodations that will enable these associates to continue in other roles with their store,” CEO Greg Foran wrote. One man in North Carolina, for instance, is being transferred to self-checkout.
But don’t assume this issue is settled because Walmart said it would “make every effort” to keep the greeters employed in its stores. That’s not a promise of anything but doing enough to make the issue fade from the headlines.
This blog was originally published at DailyKos on March 1, 2019. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at DailyKos.