Emergency workers summoned to Amazon warehouses 189 times over suicide concerns, breakdowns: report

Emergency workers summoned to Amazon warehouses 189 times over suicide concerns, breakdowns: report
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Emergency workers were summoned to Amazon warehouses 189 times for employees' "suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts and other mental health episodes" over the last five years, according to a new Daily Beast report.

The incidents reported by The Daily Beast spanned 46 warehouses in 17 states, comprising about a quarter of the company's centers in the United States. 

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“It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” Jace Crouch, a former warehouse employee from Florida, told The Daily Beast, adding that it is “mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”

Labor activists and lawmakers have long criticized Amazon over its bruising working conditions, pointing to reports that found Amazon warehouse workers were treated like robots, forced to urinate in bottles in order to save time and lived in fear of harsh treatment by managers. Multiple Amazon workers have spoken up on the issue, with some groups of employees pushing to unionize

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE (I-Vt.), one of the company's most vociferous critics in Congress, responded to The Daily Beast's reporting by calling on Amazon to "recognize that workers' rights don't stop at the minimum wage."

Amazon last year raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour after extensive criticism and pressure from labor groups and lawmakers. The company has continued to face calls for improving conditions in its warehouses.  

Employees told The Daily Beast that they felt any mental health struggles they experienced prior to their current jobs were exacerbated by Amazon's harsh working conditions. They described an atmosphere in which workers were forced to work overtime and penalized for taking breaks.

One former worker, Nick Veasley, described experiencing suicidal thoughts that intensified as he worked for Amazon. He said the job caused enormous physical pain and took a serious emotional toll, as managers cultivated a "crack the whip, crack the whip, crack the whip" atmosphere. 

Veasley reportedly told a security guard that he was planning to drive his car off of cliff after months of feeling miserable on the job. 

“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,” Veasley told The Daily Beast.

Amazon in a statement to the outlet described Veasley's reaction as "unfortunate." 

“Many employees will tell you they love their jobs and working in fulfillment centers,” the company said. 

The Daily Beast also documented the suicide of Jonathan Forrest, a man who worked in the same warehouse as Veasley. Forrest started saying he felt suicidal after he was hired as a "picker" for Amazon, meaning he placed items in bins.

Several months into the job, Forrest posted on Facebook, "After this next week is over, I will have worked 280 hours in 5 weeks...I am ready to stop, take some time to enjoy myself and not work so much, what does my work do????? Mandatory f---ing overtime! Seriously???? I am so pissed off right now. Leave me alone Amazon."

Friends and family told The Daily Beast that Forrest's mental condition deteriorated rapidly. He began threatening suicide after taking some time off work in 2017.  

“It seemed like the spark died out in him,” one of Forrest's friends said, describing his friend's final months. “He didn’t do much toward the end except work. It was pretty much all he had to talk about.”

Forrest killed himself in January 2018, a situation Amazon described in a statement as "very sad" and "shocking for the team, who very much wanted to see Johnathan get better." 

"It’s always sad when we lose a member of our team for any reason and our thoughts continue to go out to Johnathan’s [sic] family," Amazon said.

The Daily Beast spoke to six current or former Amazon employees about life at the Amazon warehouses, which they described as brutal and unforgiving. Five of the six said they were put on leave from work, resulting in pay cuts or being fired. 

Amazon in a statement called the "physical and mental well-being of our associates" its "top priority."

"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," an Amazon spokesperson said.

In one 911 call from an Amazon factory reported by The Daily Beast, the caller described an employee threatening suicide.

"His initial utterance is that he’d had thoughts of killing himself, he’s expressed two different plans that crossed his mind," the caller said. "One would be to go to a second or third story and throw himself off a balcony and he has also attempted and or thought of a plan of cutting his wrists." 

The Daily Beast noted that it could not identify how the number of 911 calls to Amazon warehouses compared to other factory environments. 

—Updated at 8:01 p.m.