It seems to try to lean towards "Amazon warehouse jobs are causing people to think about killing themselves" but the opposite could also be said - Amazon was able to engage these same employees with suicidal ideations and get them help. Only one seems to have actually killed himself, and that's after a bipolar diagnosis.
What is the suicide rate in other similar positions? How about call centers or other jobs with strict adherence to clock in/out or task time? It's easy to blame Apple or Amazon or Flextronics, but how does it compare to the rest of society?
This articles is just click bait and slander.
Part of the problem with organizations publishing stories like this and calling it “news” is that there is a higher bar for proving defamation against a news origination;
Where the defamatory comments are made by the media or where they are directed towards a public figure, the First Amendment requires that the defamed person must prove the offender published a defamatory statement with knowledge that the statement was false or with a reckless disregard of its falsity.
 - https://rtdna.org/article/a_closer_look_at_defamation_in_the...
189 calls / 5 years = 37.8 calls per year
37.8 calls / 46 warehouses = 0.82 calls per year, per warehouse
Now assume for a moment, this is probably a low estimate, that a single warehouse has a peak day shift population of 75 persons...
One of the things I have learned first hand, doing VoIP E911 and site address registration for E911 purposes, if you have a sufficiently large number of people (or in my case, live / on-net individual VoIP service circuits), there will be a certain statistically "normal" volume of 911 calls no matter what those people are doing.
Whether they're in a office of a company that rents two floors of a 350,000 square foot office tower in a downtown of a major city, sitting on their couches in a single family home in a suburb playing videos games on their xbox, attending a music festival, literally any imaginable human activity.
I am not trying to say that the Amazon warehouse jobs are not borderline abusive and a staff turnover meat-grinder, they probably are. Have read numerous reports from journalists that have gone "undercover" with the temp/staffing agencies Amazon uses to hire workers for their warehouses. It doesn't paint a pretty picture.
This is not 189 total 911 calls - this is 189 calls for emotional distress.
Personal experience dictates that on-the-job suicidal thoughts are vastly diminished compared to netflix/xbox suicidal thoughts. When you are actively engaged and distracted, you are less likely to be wrapped up in self-destructive thoughts.
The best comparison would be do find numbers of on-the-job emotional distress calls from Walmart, McDonalds, UPS, or other large employers. I have no idea how Amazon compares, but 189 over 5 years intuitively seems high.
Compare apples to apples if you want to compare.
Amazon has 8 or 9 warehouses in the Dallas Ft Worth area alone. I wonder how many 911 calls they've generated and what for.
"It's fine. Pay is decent. I get to do a lot of walking, which is nice. I'll probably look for something more long term."
I asked him about all of the horror stories and stress I've read about:
"You work in an office. Are you saying there isn't any stress or bad bosses or horror stories?"
Point taken. They have 200,000 warehouse employees. On average, the experience will be 'meh'. Just like most jobs.
But I am more troubled about how this article conflates stress and mental health, and the thin insinuation that contemplating suicide is a normal response to a bad workplace. As if one can be a workplace upgrade or job transfer away from eliminating pain. Or that people in good jobs don't deserve to feel bad.
I will trust market signals over journalists and experts any day.
i think it’s a balance, market signals alone aren’t enough imo. it’s multitude of sources that are important, and then to correlate with data that indicates a trend in one direction or another... “market signals” don’t necessarily take into account morals or “human dignity” etc... if we just relied on “market signals” we would arguably still have child labor and (even more) lax labor laws because desperate people will fill any role they can get to “fit the market”
that being said “journalism” now a days is more and more clickbait and sensationalism (profit motive at work?) so i can totally understand the sentiment....
I am not a blind follower of market and I understand the need for an effective regulation but it should revolve more around people's negative rights rather than abstract concepts like morality or dignity. I do not think people in DC or Sacramento give two shits about real dignity or morality at all.
I've also worked in offices, and while it can be stressful I've never seen anyone urinating in a garbage can because they weren't given time to go to the bathroom. I think I would have noticed that.
Some people can deal with the stress, some people can't. I don't think it's a strength/weakness thing either. It's just one of those jobs where you're perfectly aware of the degree to which you're a cog in a machine, and everything you do has to meet metrics.
If you want a job where you feel as if you matter as a person, or a job that brings you a sense of meaning, satisfaction or long term security, L1 at an Amazon warehouse isn't for you.
I wouldn't consider the horror stories to be typical, given the size of the network. I also wouldn't dismiss them, given the culture and the incentives Amazon can create. If someone told me there was a warehouse somewhere where the AMs shocked the pickers with cattle prods, I'd believe that Amazon would try it at least once, if they could get away with it, just to see how many seconds they could shave off their time.
Which is a much bigger issue than just Amazon.
> According to a 2011 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report, the country has a high suicide rate with approximately 22.23 deaths per 100,000 persons. In 2010, the worst year for workplace suicides at Foxconn with a total of 14 deaths, its employee count was a reported 930,000 people. 
That's 0.0015% at Foxconn, 0.0222% overall. In other words, Foxconn employees committed suicide at only 7% the normal rate. And that was the worst year for Foxconn.
But it didn't stop a whole lot of news stories picking up the "Employees at Apple's factories are killing themselves" angle.
Conveniently leaving out that Apple isn’t the only American tech company using Foxconn
I don't doubt that there are problematic Amazon locations out there but I never experienced any of the really negative stories I read online despite moving between different locations and building types.
> 911 calls from [Public Schools] show emotional distress and suicide threats
Nobody would care. (Maybe partly because people are already resigned to public schools being CAFOs, though)
189 calls over a 5 year period across 46 different facilities for Amazon. For schools in NYC its like, 300 a year per school iirc? (for behavior problems, not for physical health emergencies)
Just because nobody would care doesn’t mean people shouldn’t care
I think previous reports of Amazon's warehouse policies are concerning, but I don't see the utility in being dishonest or sloppy with the facts of the situation.
 I'm aware that many do think of (some) public schools as hellholes, but they'd be correct not to assume that the problems describe all or mostly originate with the school's actions.
I wish BI (or better yet, The Daily Beast when they ran the original story) had included actual statistics to put the reported rate of 911 contacts into context. Where does 189 times in five years (~38/yr, ~3/mo averaged) within an employee population of between 400k and 600k, plus seasonal temporary employees, fall into the overall incident count for similar or proportional corporate populations?
If estimates of suicide attempts (and not just ideation) within the general US population in 2017 are 1.4M (out of ~200M working-age people), we're looking at a rate of 0.7%. Just back of napikin'ing the rate for Amazon (using 500k employees for simplicity) I get ~0.007%/yr. Mind you, this does not mean that Amazon is doing anything right, it simply means it does not appear to represent an outlier against the overall population.
Warehouse jobs are likely high stress and physically challenging. I would expect they'd have a higher instance of emotional distress and suicidal thoughts/threats than non-warehouse jobs simply by virtue of the (broadly generalized) socio-economic positions a lot of their employees find themselves in.
Of the 1.4M attempts, how many are expressed at work in the context of working conditions? People handle different kinds of stress in all sorts of different ways. How many threats of suicide are made annually? Way more than 1.4M.
In the context of taking away agency from employees, serious suicidal threats are one extereme expression of stress. I’d be curious how many employees are taking a crap in the workspace deliberately, what the incidence of sex at work is, rates of theft, preventable injury, etc are.
The follow-up questions you offer are equally interesting, thank you.
Some companies forget the humans are more than work, and treating them like automatons has negative impacts on the business and the people. Just as zero tolerance is bad in other cases, it's almost always bad in employment scenarios.
I have worked at many small businesses over the years and did physical work. I was treated like garbage by most bosses, didn't have any insurance at all and worked 16 hour days when needed. No paid time off, 0 benefits, some jobs paid cash. Nobody would care if complained because it is a small business and nobody would read an article about it. This is happening to many many people in the US. If they didn't push to get out of those jobs they may be stuck there for life. Now, I am an SE, get good benefits, less stress, more respect, everyone is more lenient and polite. Yet, deep down I still have PTSD of walking on eggshells because of shit employers.
189 calls over 5 years from 600,000+ employees (and many more that have come & gone) and the article didn't even bother to compare that against the general population. Bad reporting and conclusions. There's no news here.
The real world, where people call 911 all the time. This isn't unique to Amazon, and I'm willing to wager that Costo & Walmart have similar statistics.
I think that's true, but understandable. Amazon is widely known and extremely successful, so stories about it will attract more interest, and its scope justifies the expenditure of significant resources. Also, pervasive problems at large company are harder to dismiss as being merely the result of "one bad boss" or something like that.
Hopefully negative coverage of large companies like Amazon will lead to work protection reforms that can also be used to help small business employees.
You are equivocating on two subtly different definitions of exploit: the bad one where you abuse someone (the hacker exploits your carelessness... to hurt you), and the neutral one (exploiting a resource).
In your Amazon warehouse example, people in the area are better off than they would have been without the warehouse.
Anyway I was only here to point out that exploitation doesn't always involve force, not really to argue whether Amazon workers are better off. Couldn't really weigh in on that without surveying them. And I'd need to have a list of criteria in mind, which may or may not match the people's own criteria. (Or I'd have to use their own criteria, which would mean asking more questions and lengthening the interview a bit.)
Off the cuff though I'd say whoever calls a suicide line or 911 because of work issues is probably not overall better off because of that job. (Add the appropriate disclaimers to the effect that those people are presumably a very small minority, and probably have non-work-related issues in addition to or instead of work-related ones.) Also they're not as well off as someone else who got hired at the hypothetical "other employer" with the warehouse in walking distance from their house who pays twice the rate and has showers, free employee caviar etc. (Edit: or just being allowed to take a simple bathroom break with dignity!)
Then there's also the notion (and this is where it gets really hand-wavy) that being a conduit for that money, from your employer's customers to your landlord, isn't exactly the height of joy and fulfillment, as most of us know. Though it does define some basic level of competency in a capitalist economy and being well off or at least better off as you say, than you would with a worse job or no job.
What if Amazon kills all the local business and becomes the only employer of people from few villages? They can exploit and use the same logic that you describe.
Amazon’s culture, when I worked there was firm but fair.
It was largely manual labour with a veneer of technology on top that has grown thicker over time.
I hired and fired countless people.
In my opinion, the bifurcated culture at Amazon found on Glassdoor contrasts Amazon Operations with Amazon Corporate white collar jobs.
I believe it stems from the early days of the company.
1)Customer ecstasy, get the orders out the door accurately.
2)”Average Up” with every single new hire.
Those two priories left little(read none) capacity for coaching, development, or even diplomatic warnings/terminations.
There would be a large pool of ex-Amazon folks who were involuntarily terminated for being unable, unwilling to meet a minimum standard.
And there would be an even larger pool of general population who look at Amazon, and Jeff in particular, as a money machine.
The reality is that Amazon is far more like McDonalds than Google from the perspective of Amazon workers in Operations.
Profit per Amazon Operations employee is exceptionally low.
I think it’s more accurate to describe and view Amazon as a basket of companies.
Working AWS or Alexa is a completely different beast from working as a picker in an Amazon warehouse.
But they are conveniently, and intentionally, confused and conflated to portray Amazon poorly when comparing Amazon Operations to a peer like UPS, DHL, or FedEx would probably be more fair and relevant.
However, it would appear that the unintended consequences of focusing only on the customer and “averaging up” with hiring at the expense of all else has had lasting effects on culture and perception.
Just my 0.02c
> feeling like "robots" due to intense surveillance in the warehouses, while others described how their coworkers would urinate in trash cans because they didn't have enough time to rush to the bathroom
I'm of two minds. I can see the need for surveillance at a warehouse full of consumer goods, but excessive surveillance can feel oppressive.
Not having time for bathroom breaks is a real problem, though. So is getting hurt doing your job. These aren't normal, even at warehouse jobs.
> It's hard to make ends meet in a rough economy and a lot of people don't believe they have any say in current democratic process, one vote is what you get but the whole management of the system is hardly controlled by the electorate.
That's quite insightful and I think it comes very close to the real "feel like robot" issue without mentioning the "U" word that is so controversial here: union.
In a warehouse job, you're always going to act pretty much like a robot. That's just what it is. You don't have to feel like a robot if you get reasonable working conditions (e.g., regular breaks, overtime pay) from a collectively bargained contract. Being a member of a democratically run group can make all the difference.
(This might also help with the surveillance issue. Having worked under a union, there's definitely a sense -- occasionally spoken -- that you do not screw up, because you'll make the union look bad.)
The quality of their journalism is several notches below the sources I try to get my news from.
> On the other hand, 5 studies on nighttime shift work in occupations outside the health sector, with observation periods of two or more years, yielded evidence of an elevated risk of depression after several years of nighttime shift work, but not in any uniform pattern. A supplementary meta-analysis of 5 of the studies revealed a 42% increase of the risk of depression among persons working the night shift (95% confidence interval [0.92; 2.19]). 
That's important context here, and conveniently omitted.
(This post is mostly because I personally don't think business insider is particularly factual, and so did some research to validate its claims.)
> The Columbia Journalism Review describes Media Bias/Fact Check as an amateur attempt at categorizing media bias and the owner of the site, Dave Van Zandt, as an "armchair media analyst." Van Zandt describes himself as someone with "more than 20 years as an arm chair researcher on media bias and its role in political influence." The Poynter Institute notes, "Media Bias/Fact Check is a widely cited source for news stories and even studies about misinformation, despite the fact that its method is in no way scientific."