The Daily Beast Hit Piece on Amazon

The Daily Beast hit piece on Amazon, ‘Colony of Hell’: 911 Calls From Inside Amazon Warehouses, insinuates (while denying that this is what they are doing) that Amazon warehouses are an unsafe space that generates mental health problems. The upshot is this:

Between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were summoned to Amazon warehouses at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes, according to 911 call logs, ambulance and police reports reviewed and analyzed by The Daily Beast.

The reports came from 46 warehouses in 17 states—roughly a quarter of the sorting and fulfillment centers that comprise the company’s U.S. network. Jurisdictions for other Amazon warehouses either did not have any suicide reports or declined requests for similar logs.

So how many employees does this cover? No answer. Note also the weasel words, jurisdictions which “did not have any suicide reports or declined requests” are not included. So that could mean that a majority of fulfillment centers reported no serious mental health problems. Basically the report is devoid of useful information.

As far as I can tell from the report, there were no actual suicides at Amazon warehouses during this time period. Nevertheless, let’s try to do some back of the envelope calculations. Amazon has about 125,000 full time workers in its fulfillment centers but in a typical year they will double that during holiday season so say 250,000 employees in a year. The US suicide rate for working age adults is 17.3 per 100,000 so over five years we would expect 216 suicides and many more “suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes”. Indeed, the National Institute for Mental Health reports that 0.5% of Americans aged 18 years or over attempted suicide in 2016 so we would expect 6,250 suicide attempts in a population of Amazon-sized workers (250000*.005*5=6,250). Of course, the Daily Beast’s numbers don’t cover all fulfillment centers, most suicides wouldn’t occur at work and there are a variety of other issues so cut these numbers down as you see fit. For any reasonable estimate, however, there is no reason, in this data, to think that Amazon’s numbers are in any way unusual for a large employer.

The CDC does have some limited data on suicide by occupation and the real outlier is the construction and extraction industry which has a suicide rate over 50 per hundred thousand, several times the national average.

Moreover, if you really want to find out what it’s like to work at an Amazon fulfillment center don’t look at anecdotes, look instead to the over 5 thousand reviews for this job at Indeed.com which gives Amazon 3.6 stars out of 5. Not stellar but not bad either. Costco, one of the most beloved and best ranked employers in the United States, has a rating of 4.2.

It’s obvious that there is a political impetus to go after big tech companies. Whatever one’s thoughts about that, we shouldn’t let propaganda infect our decisions.

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The CDC does have some limited data on suicide by occupation and the real outlier is the construction and extraction industry ....

Suicide by occupation? Does that mean suicides that occur in the workplace or at home after a long, tough day at the keyboard? While one's occupation may encourage thoughts of self-destruction, aren't there usually other, unrelated factors, such as close personal relationships or lack of them, that are more important factors? At one time the RCMP was said to have the highest suicide rate of any occupational group, caused by their unmaintainable standards. Is there a similar factor at work among iron workers and carpenters?

Your occupation is usually the most salient thing in your life, and has direct effects on your personal relationships. Sorting suicides by occupation is a useful metric for understanding which kinds of work might be more likely to cause them.

+1

Also, for anyone who thought a minimum company wage of $15 would stop the hit pieces, you now have your answer.

Most suicides are the result of a mental illness issue not a job. At best if there were a correlation here it would be which jobs do most mentally ill choose.

yes, interesting how most dangerous industries, extraction (mining and oil) and construction, have the most "suicides".

If you understand statistics than you understand that literally nothing is evenly distributed. What matters when honestly evaluating the data is a statistically significant difference. BUT when generating headlines what matters is any anomaly that supports your agenda. The trick for you the reader and consumer of news is to recognize this and not be fooled.

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Construction can have idle periods alternating with long hours. Extractive industries often run on week (or two) on/week off schedules. Those can be hard on relationships and leave long stretches of time for brooding and drinking.

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I'll point out that the U.S. male suicide rates is about 3.5x the rate for women ( https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/ ), and that construction and extraction is a heavily male dominated industry.

Looking at the CDC info that Alex links in this post, the #3 through #7 industries by suicide rate are also industries that I think are male-dominated. In order, they are installation, maintenance, and repair; transportation and material moving; production; protective service; and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance. #2 (Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media) is one that I think is less male-dominated.

I also agree with catter's point about idle periods alternating with long hours.

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Great post. Thanks.

Agreed. Good job Alex.

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Agreed. I was pretty hard on a recent post by Alex recently but this is a good and important one.

Another point I want to mention - it would make sense to me if the government went ahead and laid down some pretty harsh regulations on Facebook or just completely broke them up. The service has value, but could be provided without nearly as much negative externalities, not to mention Facebook's explicit poor behavior. But Amazon? Amazon is one of the greatest sources of social wealth that has emerged from the internet. Bezos should be regarded as a hero. The fact that the people who want to regulate big tech focus so much on Amazon is exactly why I don't trust those people with this power. Doesn't make me a libertarian, but why I am perfectly comfortable being in the political center.

+1

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+1, great post.

It's good to call out this type of article as a hit piece.

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I have disagreed with many of Alex's posts and opinions, but not this one. Good post.

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I don’t know the Daily Beast, but it’s hardly surprising that “professsional” reporting is poorly reported, agenda driven, and innumerate, and that any “analysis” offered is flawed. That is pretty much standard these days.

The writing style is horrible, but they pointed at this ---> "The company’s anti-theft and security screening procedures mean long lines before some workers can clock in. A lawsuit over the unpaid waiting time ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with Amazon."

In reality, it's a warehouse subcontracted by Amazon to Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. What is true is that employees spend several minutes (up to 25) at the end of their shifts while they go through a security screening to make sure they don't steal goods from the warehouse. This would be a non-issue is most jobs. However, remember the employer is counting the minutes employees spend on the restroom, so no surprise employees care about the minutes spent on the security check. The Supreme Court ruled the time spent on the security check at the end of shift is NOT work to be payed. The whole story here: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/integrity-staffing-solutions-inc-v-busk/

The Daily Beast is a crappy news site, but if it weren't for the crappy news site I'd never learned about the overtime case and the ensuing SC ruling. If the news market were restricted to "good" reporting, we'd miss a lot of information.

Good point. a double edged sword though. You know more, but half of it isn't true.

But an alert reader can sort it out. Checking the comments on this post just for reassurance that it was severely & convincingly dunked on, I’m pleased.

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If it weren’t for crappy news sources, I wouldn’t know what AOC was planning for us next.

I'm prettier than that bitch, why is she getting all the attention?

Because your old and she's young. Otherwise, yes, you're pretty much the same.

Thanks, I awkwardly laughed out loud on a busy train.

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When I was in college I spent one summer and winter break working at Opryland in Nashville, TN. As part of the job, we were required to go to a building in the far corner of the amusement park, get a costume/uniform for our particular work location, and change clothes, all of which required long lines and shuttle rides that were off the clock. This unpaid portion of the day is a big reason I didn't work there in subsequent summers despite otherwise being a fairly fun job, but I never thought of making a court case of it, not did I consider it to be any great injustice. I just found another job. Not quite sure why Amazon workers can't do the same?

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So what? Why wouldn't workers factor that into the pay rate in deciding whether or not to accept (or keep) the job? And if Amazon had been forced to pay for on-the-clock security screening, why wouldn't they have reduced wages marginally to keep overall compensation at the same level?

I'd say it's in societies best interest to keep this kind of information open and easy to access. So, perhaps a requirement for Amazon to disclose to all potential employees the maximum amount of "off-clock" time for any give position.

Indeed, if the off-clock time is not told upfront, this is just another case of asymmetric information. On top of that, Amazon markets the idea of $15 per hour minimum wage (signaling). According to economic principles, asymmetries in information between buyers and sellers may lead to market failures.

Of course, everyone is responsible of their decisions, caveat emptor, ........but what's the cost of having to exercise due diligence for every decision in life? This cost is mostly time for employees, what if there's no time?

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Articles like this are typically fed to journalists by someone with an interest since no one working at something like the daily beast has the resources or time to research something like this. Most likely labor organizers, who successfully blocked Amazon in NY because they wanted a bigger slice of the action than Amazon wanted to give. Who else would have an interest in writing drivel like this?

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'we shouldn’t let propaganda infect our decisions'

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself.

He loved Big Business.

Absurd. Alex included a link to thousands of personal reviews of the job (many of which are negative) and mentioned the (meh) overall job rating. He's not suggesting anybody should love Amazon and it's fulfillment centers, just that we should use actual data to assess them.

Actually, was it a hit piece? After all, the Daily Beast apparently denies that this is what they were presenting, but as long time readers of this web site know, anything that is mean to billionaires is clearly propaganda intended to keep us from basking in the infallible and all-powerful wisdom of B-B.

(And one should be careful how 'hit piece' is apparently being used these days. Tucker Carlson apparently considers simply publishing his own words to be an example of a hournalistic hit piece, which really does seem like an attempt to use simplistic propaganda to infect our decisions of what sort of person he is.)

Actually, was it a hit piece?

The title is ‘Colony of Hell’: 911 Calls From Inside Amazon Warehouses. The article is obviously implying that mental health issues are a particular problem without making any attempt at all to determine whether or not mental health issues were more common among Amazon warehouse workers than any reasonable comparison group. And you have to ask if it was a hit piece?

Headlines are always 'propaganda' - the writer of an article is not responsible for them, and a headline is intended to create interest. This is why while I while mock what an article says, it is senseless to mock an article's writer for a publication's headline, something that is basically out of their control.

'And you have to ask if it was a hit piece?'

I was asking rhetorically - I don't care about Amazon particularly, and I don't care about the article at all. But hit piece seems to be a particularly slippery term these days, as if it is intended to infect our decisions before even evaluating what it says.

And Amazon uses sub-contractors - a lot. Something that Prof. Tabarrok did not bother to point out, as Amazon employees are generally better treated than sub-contractor employees.

As court cases continue to demonstrate, like this one - 'Amazon has fought back against such allegations. This month, The Guardian revealed that “ambassadors” for Amazon’s warehouse workforce had started posting positive comments on social media about the company, the work in “fulfillment centers” and Bezos.

Amazon admitted to the “FC Ambassadors” program, saying the ambassadors, who include the firm’s logo in their posts, had been warehouse workers who are now tweeting and posting on behalf of the firm full time, receiving the same pay and benefits that they were getting as warehouse workers.' https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/08/28/amazon-delivery-drivers-worked-without-breaks-werent-paid-for-overtime-federal-lawsuit/ Oops - I didn't quote the part about working conditions for contractors, I quote the part about Amazon apparently attempting to manipulate things like Indeed.com (full disclaimer - no idea if any Amazon employee paid to give positive reviews made any such comments at Indeed.com)

Or this one - 'A leading logistics contractor and a group of staffing companies agreed to pay as much as $1.9 million to resolve allegations of wage-and-hour violations and retaliation at a Los Angeles-owned storage facility that houses Amazon.com products, among others.

A group of warehouse workers filed the proposed class action in 2014, claiming Amazon contractor California Cartage Co. and several staffing firms violated the state’s minimum wage law and the city’s “living wage” statute. The workers also alleged that the defendants didn’t give employees time to rest during periods of excessive heat, and retaliated against those who complained.

Amazon.com Inc., which isn’t a defendant, declined to immediately comment. The Los Angeles allegations echo other lawsuits in recent years alleging the online giant used contractors that skirted regulations to cut costs.' https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-22/amazon-contractor-settles-warehouse-conditions-lawsuit

-25 Gryfin_Clock, for a blatant admission of trolling

"'And you have to ask if it was a hit piece?' I was asking rhetorically - I don't care about Amazon particularly,"

Trolling Slocum? Sure, if rhetorical questions can now be considered trolling.

And was your comment actually useful?

Doesn't matter how I answer, it would be trolling, right?

And how many rhetorical questions can I string together?

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Such is life in Trump's Oceania.

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-10 Gryfin_Clock, for repeating verbatim your own quote in less than 5 days.

It was funny the first time but now it's just sad to see.

Agreed, we gave him props when he first used it, I guess he really enjoyed the praise. Bad form to just keep using it.

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Suicide is a well-known route to try to escape slavery. "Banzo" was a kind of depression Brazilian slaves faced. Some of them killed themselves. For humanitarian reasons, Brazil banned slavery in 1888. Maybe America should follow suit?

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Warehouses are always open for work, day and night. So, I'd expect above average problems just because they work the night shift and sleep disorders are linked to psychological problems. If Amazon warehouses are a worse environment than any other 24/7 open business that's another story.

Using "weasel words" means the Daily Beast can afford a legal reviewer =) It's so easy to land lawsuits by the dozen, so if the media did not carefully worded any text, they could not talk about anything. I see no fault on insinuations, it's just adaptation to the current environment.

I'm a bit disconcerted by this sentence from Alex: "It’s obvious that there is a political impetus to go after big tech companies". Industrial farming is opposed by promoters of animal rights, oil companies by environmentalists, so there's political impetus to go after big companies. Why single out tech companies? Are they sacred cows or what?

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Tabulating the prevalence of suicide in America doesn't seem the best defense of Amazon and tech. But neither does tabulating the contributions by big business to fascists seem the best defense of big business and tech. A good fascist knows his crowd, and data mining by tech is the best source for getting to know the crowd.

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Would it be okay say that you are accusing Daily Beast of "Fake News"?

Yes, all the news that fits, we print.

Democracy may die in darkness, but journalism dies in broad daylight.

Poor Jeff Bezos. He thought buying the Washington Post was a good insurance policy, protecting him from Democrats. He forgot that progressives can't stand success. He now finds himself despised by the president, attacked by Congress, under siege by Democrats, under review by antitrust, bad-mouthed by the press, and savaged by the progs. I almost feel sorry for him.

I look around and have the creepy feeling that I am living inside an Ayn Rand novel.

"I look around and have the creepy feeling that I am living inside an Ayn Rand novel."

Then where is the 500-page speech about money?

All the posts and talk about MMT?

But shouldn't they be consolidated in one big post? If I can't kill a small mammal with it, it is not an Ayn Rand novel?

You can't kill a small mammal with your laptop open to a Summers blog post?

Not thanks to the content.

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Millennial socialist journalists are more muckraker than journalist.....the press is dead and nobody reads the daily beast thinking that it’s anything other than the left wing analogue to newsmax or brighbart...

As someone to the right on most issues, the only left wing media that I trust is the Gaurdian....

As someone to the right on most issues, the only left wing media that I trust is the Gaurdian....
That figures.
Nice equivalencies BTW.

Oh I’m sorry did you think politico, the daily beast, or Vox media were all that much better than news max or brightbart?

I mean are any of those groups clearly rising above the others in terms of intellectual rigor or journalistic integrity?

At least when you read the Gaurdian you can tell that their journalists have some kind of formal education. It’s the same thing over at the Economist? Maybe it’s just a British thing...

If you must misspell that paper's name, at least do like the Brits: Grauniad.

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See, THIS is the problem in the BS (behavioral and social) sciences. If we take TC's number as correct that there are 125k workers (full-time) then only a numerically challenged person (TC, I'm talking about you) would then increase it due to "turn-over". Here's a hint: if someone is no longer working at the warehouse (or has yet to be hired), he or she isn't going to suffer suicidal thoughts AT the warehouse. Here's another hint: if someone is employed from Nov 1st to Jan 10th (say) then only someone who is intentionally misleading (or has decided that spewing lying and misleading crap is part of his job description) would do anything other than pro-rate the employees time. If ~125k jobs are created for 10 weeks that works out to 125k x 10/52 = 24k. Sure there's "high stress" in the holiday season but I'd guess that few people their first day on the job are serious suicide risks. IOW there's a honeymoon period which would (admittedly pure speculation on my part here) more than compensate for any higher seasonal risk. So if we take TC's rate of 17.3 and multiply it by 150k we'd expect 130, they had in excess of 190. If we use TC's reported NIMH number 0.005 then we get 150k x 0.005 x 5 = 3750 'attempts' - but what the fuck does that have to do with anything? Oh, I know: TC is spinning the 190 by juxtaposition with a much larger (and irrelevant) number. (in all fairness the number isn't irrelevant; rather its relationship to the call log number just isn't in evidence (here)). It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt. And here, look at me. 190/130 is roughly 50% higher than expected, right?

Man, so sorry. This was AT's post.

Yes, I thought of that but given the uncertainty in all the numbers it didn't seem worthwhile to work out the correct exposure. Hence I said "cut these numbers down as you see fit".

+1, the criticism of Alex's post by Neurotic seems off point. Sure it's not precise, but the numbers are clearly big enough to conclude that 46 calls over that time period don't equate to the narrative for The Daily Beast.

I think that a rational point of view would lean toward Alex's take that the data is tenuous and inconclusive at best.

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Actually Alex, from my perspective of a "quantified arguments professional", I have to say it is kind of serious error to take the turnover numbers. Additionally, when the most conservative take (the number of regular employees) is more than enough to make the point, that's what should be used.

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Amazon grew quite a bit, I'm sure, between 2013 and 2018, so holding that number of workers constant is probably not correct, either.

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Well, to be fair I think you should take account of measurement through time. In which case the total population of those who worked in the warehouse during a period of time would be higher than the static staffing level at a given period of time.

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The day big tech and those that thrive on data about us enter into a coalition with big governments, that day Big Brother Feudalism has arrived, and we citizens become their eternal serfs.
So let us be wary of ambulance chasers and polarization and redistribution profiteers going after those businesses, and have these instead help fund a citizen’s unconditional Universal Basic Income.
http://myubi.blogspot.com/2017/01/my-universal-basic-income.html

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It could be the type of work in another. An Amazon warehouse would be similar to working at the post office and there is a reason for the term "going postal."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_postal

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Nor should capitalist propagandists attempt to deflect attention from crying needs to begin imposing regulations on ALL internet businesses and enterprises, in effect regulating the Internet itself, FINALLY, AFTER THIRTY YEARS (we were reminded just yesterday by our friends at Google).

The Tech Sector has not yet faced strict or severe Federal regulation and oversight for businesses that claim disingenuously not to be "media companies", not to be "publishers" or "content providers"--internet companies apparently are pleased NOT to be all kinds of things, but until Federal regulators can decide what kinds of businesses these companies operate, Americans will be at their unregulated mercy.

The Internet and all internet companies are in dire need of sensible REGULATION (including taxation on ALL internet commerce).

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Working in a warehouse is hard work. It always has been. Although perhaps harder now that employers have exact measures of productivity. Loading trucks for UPS isn't so easy either. Nor is working in a frozen-foods warehouse where one must move heavy boxes in a cold environment.

And, yes, theft has always been a problem at any warehouse that contains goods that either have a high value/size ratio, or are easily sold.

But, suicide is not something a mentally healthy and resilient person does in response to job stress. A job is always and forever just a job, but especially so when the job is obviously something less than part of a career.

Of course, Amazon is investing heavily in automating as much as possible at its fulfillment centers (and it will probably be criticized for that, also). Yet materials handling will probably never be totally, 100% automated.

"Yet materials handling will probably never be totally, 100% automated."

Maybe not, but at the point it's 99%+ automated, no one will really care.

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Seems like this is an example of "The elite case against big product x:" https://jakeseliger.com/2019/01/08/the-elite-case-against-big-product-x-today-its-facebook

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A few months ago Tyler posted "Amazon has hired more than 150 Ph.D. economists in the past five years, making them the largest employer of tech economists" https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/10/economists-tech-sector.html

Fine, the Daily Beast text is propaganda. But, how do we readers should interpret an economics professor advocating for a major employer of economics PhD graduates? It would be interesting to know the number of GMU graduates working at Amazon or other tech companies. Zero, more than 1, 10+? Can student/professor relationships influence the judgement on tech companies? I'm not insinuating any corrupt deal, it's just that people that know each other support each other, consciously or unconsciously.

So, any disclosures?

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"propaganda" seems a bit harsh here for an economics blog. Instead one should consider stories that are easy to write versus stories that are hard to write. Amazon warehouses are new, big and easy to track. Consider, however, suicides by dishwashers or even uber drivers. Dishwashers end up in all sorts of places, chains, individual restaurants, 'hole in the wall' outlets etc. How easy would it be to track their suicides or suicide attempts? Uber drivers would be even harder. Unless they commit suicide while ubering, odds are no one is collecting any data on it.

The journalism production function has demand on one side (interest is great in 'sexy' companies like Amazon) and supply on the other (how much time & effort does one need to uncover an interesting story).

The 'refuting' this story is poor. At best the case here is Amazon's employee suicides are no worse than the population average. In itself that may be fine if the argument is should we allow more Amazon fulfillment warehouses or not. But if the question is can Amazon do better then the article makes sense.

That’s life my man! Just because capitalism produces vastly more wealth than other forms of social organization and vastly more consumption of material goods as well, doesn’t mean it eliminates crappy jobs. And based on current economic growth rates and the political climate, those crappy jobs aren’t go away any time soon.

Sorry but all forms of social organization produce crappy jobs. Crappy warehouse jobs still exist in communist or socialist countries, the only difference is you go home to an even crappier life....

Somehow I suspect in the set of all possible worlds there exist cases where Amazon warehouses have a somewhat lower rate of suicides AND all of capitalism hasn't been overturned by a collectivist gulag.

Hmmmm....let’s see what kind of interventionist policy is going to honestly fix Amazon if they truly have a suicide problem?

If Amazon is such a monopsonist as a labor buyer that they can literally get people to work a job that causes people to commit suicide at a much greater rate than the normal societal rate, then I’d say that’s a symptom of a much bigger societal issue.

If we’re going to start using the old policy tool kit to start social engineering we may want to “go bigger” than simply regulating warehouse work...

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Odd that a guy who has zero problem with the endless, daily political slime pieces coming out of WaPo and NYT would suddenly freak out about one that slimes Amazon.

Is it a Bezos-worshipping thing? Never question the WaPo, never slime Amazon?

The moderators, like everyone else, have visceral reactions when things they value are attacked, and those reactions are motivating. (See Clayton Cramer on the problems inherent in the ideological monoculture of American history faculties). The people slimed in the Bezos Birdcage Liner and the Sulzberger Birdcage Liner aren't anyone the Mercatus crew gives a rip about. Sumner would slime the same people himself.

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Thesis: people who are attracted to jobs in journalism tend to be barely numerate. Also, if there is no scandal, you've got no story. Creates structural incentives to be deceptive to your readers.

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I wish more journalists asked themselves "Compared to what" more often

True, but also you shouldn't compare to anything.

Back in the day getting your package in 3-5 days was pretty good. Suppose Amazon compared themselves to that and that's it? So much for making 2-day and even same day a new norm.

Is it good that Amazon's warehouses have a suicide rate that's roughly aligned with the US average? What is the average anyway but the sum of all the large players in the economy so as Amazon becomes a huge employer it starts to become the average.

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In early 2017, pioneers - the seminary faculty couple across the street from me - put up one of those signs informing me that In This House we Believe science is real, no human is illegal, and my ladyrights are merely human rights. NextDoor went wild, where can we get one of those signs? The search for and distribution of that hot item was probably the biggest ever thread - prior to that I would say the most-followed thread was the one about the best place for women with a couple hundred bucks and several hours to spare, to get their eyelash extensions.

Until, until ... about a year ago, the Amazon package delivery threads wound up. They're throwing them in the bushes! They're leaving them on top of the mailbox at the foot of the long drive, they're punching in "delivered" to meet their times when they haven't delivered, they're not ringing the bell, they're not in uniform, they're ignoring the guys trailing them stealing the packages off the porch. Etc.

The animus towards the Amazon stuff-deliverers is palpable. At least it has kind of taken some heat off the mailman and UPS. If you printed out one of those In This House We Believe in Love signs, and added "Amazon employees suck," you'd be sold out by dinnertime.

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Neither the article, or the criticism of it, are very persuasive.

But, I am unimpressed by the words "hit job", "insinuate" and "weasel words" in a criticism which purports to challenge an article, but, which itself, like the article, fails to include the population of workers, or adjust for the subset of reporting locations, from which to compare to CDC numbers.

Pinnocihios to both.

In fact, you could argue that an attentive employer would report more suicide behavior, before it occurred, than an inattentive one.

+1

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Good post. But I wanted to point out that this bit was hilarious: "a population of Amazon-sized workers."

I assume you meant "an Amazon-sized population of workers," but instead I pictured warehouses full of Wonder Woman and her ilk.

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The dailybeast is plagiarizing he red Chinese's demonization of Foxconn, not surprising!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides

https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/07/10/apples-chinese-suicides-and-the-amazing-economics-of-ha-joon-chang/#2039e38d36a6

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Seems to me just about everything we read about national/international issues these days could be labelled a "hit piece" one way or the other.

Coverage of Venezuela comes to mind. But of course that's torn nearly verbatim from the prelude-to-war incendiary playbook.

Brexit also.

I'd actually exclude coverage of Trump. He seems to invite it, thrive on it possible even require it. So it doesn't really count as a hit piece anymore.

In fact, what we suffer most from in the US is "omit pieces." The issues and angles the media chooses to omit.

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"So how many employees does this cover? No answer. "

Dean Baker is excellent at pointing out how numbers are fudged or misleading out of context. It's essential to break down numbers when they're offered.

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OTOH, Amazon is known to have a snitch requirement for even skilled employees - they are REQUIRED to provide NEGATIVE feedback to their fellow employees. Supposedly Bezos did not want to have the what he considered to be the country club culture of Microsoft.

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"Hit piece" might be a bit strong but Alex raises a good point.

He could've taken what IMO is a better and more intuitive approach to the back of the envelope calculations however. Rather than speculating about Amazon's total numbers, use the solid numbers that we already have: 189 incidents in 46 warehouses over five years. That's a little over 4 incidents per warehouse during that period, or almost one per year in each warehouse.

If the 125K full-time workers are distributed evenly over the warehouses, that's 30K over 46 warehouses or over 600 full-time workers in each warehouse.

The calculations get a bit dicey after this. Even without resorting to the national health statistics we can guess that with that many people, we can surely expect one or more mental health incidents per year.

But how often would they happen at work, instead of at home or elsewhere? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if people are more likely to have meltdowns away from work (where they are more likely to drink, take drugs, and/or have an argument with someone).

So my guess is that one incident per year is probably low for a population of 600 people (Alex's cited national statistics certainly say this). But it might be high for a workplace? Don't know. Alex is correct that the DailyBeast article has spun the numbers, but I'm not quite ready to exonerate Amazon and its workplace climate.

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