A new report paints the inside of Amazon warehouses as seething hotbeds of workplace misery.
The report in The Daily Beast said that in the five years between October 2013 and October 2018, first responders were called to Amazon warehouses for 189 episodes in which employees were at the end of their ropes — whether that meant an attempt at suicide, suicidal thoughts, or some unspecified mental health issue.
The website said it reviewed public records such as 911 call logs and ambulance or police reports from 46 warehouses in 17 states.
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the annual number of workplace suicides at 282, based on the most current data it had.
Workplace conditions at Amazon are such that workers in the New York City area spoke earlier this year about forming a union.
“We are not robots. We are human beings. We cannot come into work after only four hours of sleep and be expected to be fully energized and ready to work. That’s impossible,” said picker Rashad Long. He added that employees are overworked and subject to too much pressure.
“I feel like all the company cares about is getting their products out to the customers as quickly humanly as possible, no matter what that means for us workers in the end,” he said, according to The Guardian.
The Daily Beast’s report sought to contrast the reality of the work that takes place at warehouses to the vast wealth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
In response to the anecdotal episodes related by The Daily Beast, Amazon said the number of calls was an “overgeneralization” that “doesn’t take into account the total of our associate population, hours worked, or our growing network.”
“The physical and mental well-being of our associates is our top priority, and we are proud of both our efforts and overall success in this area,” Amazon said in a statement. “We provide comprehensive medical care starting on day one so employees have access to the care when they need it most, 24-hour a day free and confidential counseling services, and various leave and medical accommodation options covering both mental and physical health concerns.”
The Daily Beast presented a number of anecdotes of employees battling stress.
In one, it quoted a police report as saying about a young worker, “With all the demands his employer has placed on him and things he’s dealing with in life (sic) is becoming too much and considering hurting himself.”
The worker was “with Amazon for over a year and is frustrated with his employment because he felt he was lied to by Amazon at his orientation. He keeps saying the company told him they valued his employment and would be treated as if he mattered and not just a number,” The Daily Beast quoted the report as saying.
“It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” said Jace Crouch, who formerly worked for Amazon at Lakeland, Florida, facility. “It made it really hard for me to deal with that dehumanization at work. I would come home, not talk to anyone, sit in bed, and cry.”
He called the job “mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”
The report quoted Nick Veasley, 41, who it said worked in Etna, Ohio, as saying the job was constant pressure.
“The quota, the boringness, everything,” he said. He equated managers with enforcers.
“Do that, do this, do this,” he said. “Crack the whip, crack the whip, crack the whip.”
Veasley developed health issues, and he and Amazon have a difference of opinion about whether he was treated fairly in that regard.
“Usually I can get myself out of a problem but I couldn’t do it working at Amazon,” Veasley said. “I felt like I had a thousand pounds wrapped around my ankle and it kept dragging me down and down and down, and there was no way out.”
Eventually, he told an Amazon guard he wanted to drive his car off a cliff, which resulted in a three-day confinement in a psychiatric ward.
“That place screwed me up so much it put me into a depression where I was actually on a 72-hour hold in a psych ward,” he said.
Amazon said it did what it could to help Veasley.
“As we would with any associate in need, we supported and attempted to help Nick get the treatment and support he needed and requested. We accommodated his requests, directly engaged with him to understand his needs, provided resources, including outside and emergent crisis intervention help to him. Even though in the end it did not work out for Nick at Amazon, we hope he has found success in his pursuits,” the company said in a statement.
As reported by The Western Journal, Amazon at one time sought a patent for a device that would put workers in wheeled cages to maximize efficiency.
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