Walmart panned for move to eliminate “greeters”

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In this April 21, 2018 photo provided by Rachel Wasser, Walmart greeter John Combs works at a Walmart store in Vancouver, Wash. Combs, who has cerebral palsy, and other greeters with disabilities are threatened with job loss as Walmart transforms the greeter position into one that’s more physically demanding. Combs was devastated and then angered […]

Walmart is drawing fire for its plan to phase out the “greeters” who welcome customers at its stores. 

The retail giant last week started replacing greeters at roughly 1,000 of its locations across the U.S. with what the company calls “customer hosts,” according to a Walmart spokesperson. The position requires employees to check receipts, help with product returns and generally help with upkeep at the front of stores.

The job change, which has already reportedly been implemented in many Walmart stores, disadvantages disabled and other greeters who would struggle with the physical demands of the new duties, critics said. Walmart, which has more than 5,300 outlets across the U.S., first started rolling out the changes in about 1,000 stores in 2016. 

“This is a shameful day for the country’s largest corporate employer, and a slap in the face to thousands of veteran employees and others with physical disabilities who have given years of service to the corporation,” Kristi Branstetter, leader for OUR Walmart, Walmart associate and member of worker advocacy group United4Respect, said in a statement. OUR Walmart has a network of 150,000 Walmart associates, according to a spokesperson for the group. 

“Walmart’s actions — fueled by an uncompromising quest to slash costs, no matter the consequence — seem to be discriminatory, plain and simple. We see you, Walmart, and we’re not having it,” Branstetter continued.

After the greeter positions disappear at designated stores in late April, Walmart employees will have 60 days to explore other jobs at the company. The company said employees with disabilities would be given more time to consider their options. 

“This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved,” Walmart said in a statement.

Average pay for full-time Walmart workers in the U.S. is about $14 per hour.  

One greeter ponders options

Among the Walmart greeters who would be affected by the change is 30-year-old Adam Catlin, who has cerebral palsy and who has worked at a Walmart store in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, for more than a decade. Catlin, who is legally blind and uses a walker, would have to lift at least 25 pounds and stand for long periods of time as part of his new duties.

Catlin’s mother, Holly, drew attention to Walmart’s policy change last week on Facebook, provoking a mixture of outrage and sympathy for her son’s predicament. 

“We’re still hopeful that Walmart will be able to offer him something he can do, because he would love to stay there, but otherwise he would have to look for a new job,” said Amber Piermattei, Catlin’s older sister.

Walmart has offered Catlin two different jobs with the company — cashier and photo lab assistant — but he rejected both, Piermattei said. Catlin, who is legally blind, lacks the finger dexterity to count money, and he can’t move around the photo lab in his walker, she said.

“Everything’s kind of at a standstill,” she said. 

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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