In February, Justin Kelley was among the workers at about 1,000 Walmarts who learned that their jobs as public health would be eliminated. Like Kelley, many of them were disabled workers who were in limbo. Alina Selyukh / NPR hide caption change caption Alina Selyukh / NPR In February, Justin Kelley was among the workers at about 1,000 Walmarts who learned that their job as people greeters would be eliminated. Like Kelley, many of them were disabled workers who were in limbo. Alina Selyukh / NPR A weekend in February, Justin Kelley, 33, made his biggest financial commitment. He paid a friend to start his own airboat. He had dreamed of owning one since an early age. "It's my level playing the ground. It's my freedom," says Kelley. On land he uses a hiker to get around and a wheelchair at work, to have cerebral palsy. But on an airboat on a Florida lake? "For me, it's the only place that when I'm in the seat you don't see that walker. You don't see the chair … It's my escape. It's my happy place." But two days after spending money on the boat, Kelley discovered that his job was in danger. He was one of the greeters of about 1,000 Walmart stores who were told that their positions would be eliminated in late April. It gave them about 60 days to get resettled or take off and leave. "All my life is waiting," says Kelley, sitting on the wooden ladder…
Alina Selyukh / NPR
A weekend in February, Justin Kelley, 33, made his biggest financial commitment. He paid a friend to start his own airboat. He had dreamed of owning one since an early age.
“It’s my level playing the ground. It’s my freedom,” says Kelley. On land he uses a hiker to get around and a wheelchair at work, to have cerebral palsy. But on an airboat on a Florida lake? “For me, it’s the only place that when I’m in the seat you don’t see that walker. You don’t see the chair … It’s my escape. It’s my happy place.”
But two days after spending money on the boat, Kelley discovered that his job was in danger. He was one of the greeters of about 1,000 Walmart stores who were told that their positions would be eliminated in late April. It gave them about 60 days to get resettled or take off and leave.
“All my life is waiting,” says Kelley, sitting on the wooden ladder to his house in Lake Wales, Fla.
Since 2016, Walmart has replaced greeters with “hosts”, more focused on security and assistant shoppers. But for current greeters like Kelley to qualify for the new front door, they must now meet new criteria. This includes, for example, lifting 25 pounds or climbing a ladder.
One, two, three – Kelley counts more than half a dozen surgical scars on his legs – hoarding, ankle “they shattered my shin to try to straighten that foot, he actually says. He can lift and climb, if he has to, in a private environment, adjusting his body, but doing it regularly and safely for work? Kelley does not qualify.
According to Walmart, the majority of greeters who “expressed interest in another role” will turn to new roles within the 60 days “In some cases, we were able to identify roles very early in the process,” said spokesman Kory Lundberg, “but for others, the 60-day transition has helped people look at all their options to help them make the best decision for them.” (Note: Walmart is one of NPR’s financial sponsors.)
As Kelley sits on the porch, it’s time 49 of his wait for a HR call. He says he has a good boss who is struggling to find him a new position. But Kelley also has someone who wants to buy their boat.
“How do I start selling my things I just bought?” Kelley says. Selling the boat would float him for a while. But he spent five years saving on it. “Do I take my dream right now and just buy cartoon characters? What should I do?”
Kelley’s predicament sounds familiar to other greeters with disabilities. Over the past few weeks, a dozen workers and their families shared similar accounts – of uncertainty, hope, and anxiety waiting for a business decision. Kelley does not know that, as he speaks, he has already decided.
One day in life
Airboat is large in central Florida, where citrus groves are lined with lakes and swamps. These boats are flat, with a giant prop in the back and usually an aircraft engine. They can run on groundwater and even stain dry ground in the marshes.
Kelley has been enamored with airboats since he was a teenager, fishing, hunting, just cruise. Of all the sounds in the world, the boat’s noise is one that calms him down. Around here you can go for hours, even days, and never meet the same place twice, says Kelley. “We can see water buffalo, shoulder deer, turkey, pigs, streets. Just the land of God”.
Growing up, Kelley says he often thought people thought his parents were mean to how they drove him to be self sufficient. As if you can’t climb a truck yourself, you can’t go on a trip. Now, says Kelley, he thanks them for it all the time.
Alina Selyukh / NPR
In fact, he spends so much time outdoors and on the town he says he walks through hikers “as if they are out of style” – three times faster than he has prescribed new ones.
“Fortunately for me, most of my friends are welders, so we fix it, fix it to the job,” he says. “Or my mom and dad, it should be my Christmas present … a walker.”  Today, he climbs into a seat in his sandy driveway, a friend drives him to work – Kelley’s Walmart is nearly 9 miles away, and Kelley doesn’t live near a public transportation, so he sucks rides from friends and $ 12 Ubers, makes himself ready hours in advance if a trip ends up and the nearest Uber is 20 minutes away.
“It’s not like my life goal [is] to live off a disability I don’t want to say that I paid for all of it myself,” says Kelley. I don’t want housing, I don’t want free medical stuff. His dream is classic: Stable work, a house, wife and children, a couple of acres with a barn for their boat.
After some fake starts at other jobs after high school, Kelley spent a year at work before joining Walmart. He’s been there nine years.
“For me to say that I work for a company [where] I got 401 (k), I got a chance to get insurance. It meant a lot to me,” says Kelley. “I take a lot of pride in it.” 19659008] Finally news
In the shop where he works, all other shoppers seem to know Kelley by name, and on the way in, people stop talking about fishing, weekend plans, children and of course boats. receivers ready for Kelley to check out. Shoppers greet him even after he clocked out and waits outside for a home in Uber.
“I love him to death, he’s a good guy,” Ronald Smith, who came to get medicine for his wife. “Even if you got there with an attitude, you start with a good atmosphere right now – it’s my friend, I’ll have a good time shopping.”
Every Today he is in, Kelley asks his managers if they have heard of their job from business Most days they have not, but on day 49 of his wait – they have news. And that is good.
Walmart reallocates Kelley. Like many other disabled greeters, Kelley will now assist shoppers in the self-checkout area.
Lundberg, Walmart spokesman, says that the overall “greeters have accepted jobs in nearly 50 different roles in the stores, from the new customer’s host position to cake effects.” He says the purpose of the 60-day process was to give workers and store time to review all alternatives and needed housing and find the best fit “to better serve the customer.”
Kelley signed her offer on the spot.
“He came in last night, he was so happy,” says Haley Seagraves, whose family shares a house with Kelley. Her husband and Kelley became best friends after meeting through Walmart. “[Kelley] continued smiling, and I said,” Why are you so happy? “And he was like,” Because I love this job! “”
Kelley is excited about stability. Although he is already worried about moving for a new schedule. But he is grateful.
“Great weight lifted from the shoulders,” he says and laughs. “There is no boat for sale, it is safe.”