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[Commentary] © 2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080

Work-Related Suicides from January to April, 2003

4/25/2003  work-related murder & suicide in the news -

3/31/2003  work-related violence & suicide in the news - 3/25/2003  work-related violence & suicide in the news - 3/23/2003  work-related violence & suicide in the news - 3/19/2003  work-related violence & suicide in the news -
  1. Farmer protest shuts offices and stokes capital jitters, by Christopher Marquis, NYT, A18.
    WASHINGTON...- A disgruntled tobacco farmer who claimed to have explosives kept scores of police at bay [yester]day for a second day from his tractor in a pond on the Mall, shutting down 3 federal buildings and snarling rush-hour traffic in the center of the capital.... The standoff began around noon on Monday when Mr. Watson drove a jeep pulling a tractor on a trailer over the sidewalk on Constitution Avenue and into the small pond..\.. Talks with the farmer, Dwight W. Watson, 50, of Whitakers NC were under way as authorities said they were willing to wait him out, even as they scrambled to reroute traffic and enforce a 300-yard perimeter around his vehicles....
    After warning police that he was prepared to explode a bomb [made of] ammonium nitrate, a component of fertilizer, which was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing..\..he spent the night in his partly submerged tractor, occasionally lowering his window to wave an American flag. The standoff, within several blocks of the White House, was the latest source of unease in a city already anxious about the potential for a terrorist attack as [Cheney] moves toward war.... Mr. Watson told reporters he was protesting reductions in federal subsidies to tobacco farmers. In a telephone call to the Washington Post [yester]day, he described himself as "broke" and said he was going to "get my message out or die trying."...
    [So it goes in a world that has headed down the deadend of unsustainable straining for gov't-subsidized makework - even unhealthy makework like manufacturing smokes - instead of sustainably relaxing into simple private-sector sharework, sharing and spreading to all who need to self-support the vanishing human employment as worksaving technology advances and population grows.]
    [Followup -]
    Farmer leaves tractor, ending a standoff in Washington - Chaos by lone man bewilders Capital, by Christopher Marquis, 3/20/2003 NYT, A22.

  2. Gunmen kills 3, then himself, at American oil rig in Yemen, by Jane Perlez, NYT, A11.
    DOHA, Qatar...- A Yemeni gunman shot dead 3 workers [yester]day at an American oil rig in northern Yemen, according to a spokesman for the rig's supervisor, Hunt Oil Co. of Dallas. The assault, which left an American, a Canadian and a Yemeni dead, ended when the assailant shot himself, the company said. Another Canadian worker was wounded....
    The two Canadians who were shot were employed by the rig's owner, Nabors Drilling USA of Dallas, one of the nation's biggest oil drilling contractors. Siegfried Meissner, the president of Nabors, said the gunman had worked as a carpenter with the company for 9 years. Mr. Meissner said he believed the attack was a "stand-alone event" unrelated to Al Qaeda or any organized...group....

3/12/2003  work-related suicide in the news - 2/26/2003  work-related suicide & violence in the news -
  1. Bitterness follows French chef's death - Country [questions] its food critics, by Craig Smith, NYT, A3.
    SAULIEU, France - ...Bernard Loiseau...one of the country's most celebrated chefs, was found dead beside a hunting rifle in his village home here on Monday. Within hours, France's haute society was abuzz with speculation over the reasons for his death, apparently a suicide.
    Mr. Loiseau's death followed the downgrading of his highly rated restaurant here by the influential and respected Gault-Millau restaurant guide and suggestions that it was in danger of losing one of the 3 stars awarded it by the all-powerful red Michelin Guide. Such downgrades in the past have driven chefs to desperate acts.
    But Mr. Loiseau, 52, was also facing falling profits and exhaustion, his associates say....
    [Evidently not someone who was practicing the new French 35-hour workweek.]

  2. Gunman kills four at Alabama job agency, AP via NYT, A21.
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala...- A man looking for work opened fire [yester]day at a temporary employment agency in an argument over a CD player, killing four fellow jobseekers [Billy Knox Sr 61 & Jr 22, Ben Ferguson 47, David Seiler 46] and wounding a fifth, the police said.
    [America's mass murderers, careless nightclub owners and cellphone-using drivers et al. are doing more than any terrorists. And now, desperately seeking war with Iraq - out of the blue - America is its own worst enemy.]
    Hours later, officials said, the gunman surrendered after a standoff at his apartment, where the police had tracked him down using the address he had put on his job applications. The authorities had turned off the building's electricity in near-freezing temperatures. The man was identified as Emanuel Burl Patterson, 23.
    [Young, but from the photo, huge.]
    The police said the man shot at officers early in the standoff. The killings took place about 6:30 am in the lobby of Labor Ready Inc., where as many as 15 people were gathered, waiting for work.... Michael Tucker Jr. said his father was in the office and told him the argument "was all over something about CD's and $20." They were pushing him, laughing at him," he said. "They pushed him into a corner"..\..
    [Sounds like the classic story of Dr. Frankenstein's would-be gentle 'monster'.]
    Mr. Patterson regularly went to the office looking for work and was known to employees and other laborers..\..said a police spokesman, Wendell Johnson.... "People who know him say he is a very unstable individual," Mr. Johnson said....
    Patricia Johnson, 38, told The Huntsville Times that the gunman turned his handgun on her and pulled the trigger, but the weapon did not fire. She ran into a closet where 3-4 people were [already] hiding.
    Three people were dead at the scene and a fourth died in surgery. The police said the wounded man was hit in the leg....
    Labor Ready, based in Tacoma, Wash., describes itself as the nation's largest provider of temporary manual labor for light industry and small businesses.
    [We need to quantify the astronomical hidden costs of maintaining a vast un- and under-employed population of financially anxious people because of FDR's terrible decision - in 1933 - to go with makework instead of sharework - straining, too little too late, to create busywork instead of just spreading around the vanishing still-unautomated market-demanded work. That disastrous decision forced us - and is still forcing us - to offset every new labor-saving technology with makework - barring access forever to the most basic kind of freedom and progress = more, financially secure free time. And of course, government has never kept up with creating enough jobs to fill a minimum of 40 hours a week for everyone, so unemployment, official and hidden, has grown ever since. And so have the hidden costs, as this page of work-related violence reveals.]
    The [Huntsville] Labor Ready office is next to a building that houses law enforcement agencies, including state troopers and investigators for the sheriff's department.
    [How convenient.]

2/21/2003  work-related suicide & violence in the news - 2/16/2003  work-related suicide & violence in the news - 1/28/2003  work-related suicide & violence in the news -
  1. Focus: Wife battles company greed after husband's suicide, by Yukiko Toyoda, Kyodo 01/27/03 20:14 EST via AOLNews.
    (EDS: This is the second of a 5-part series on suicide, a subject some members of the families involved talked openly about) [we missed the first of the series - ed.]
    TOKYO...- Noriko Takizawa learned on the morning of Jan. 23, 1996 that her husband had leaped to his death. After her son went to sleep that night, she walked to a pedestrian overpass spanning a road near her home. "Should I follow him to be on his side?" Takizawa (not her real name) asked herself, but decided not to take her own life because of her [18-year-old] son, who was preparing for his university entrance examination.
    Her husband Yoshio (not his real name) was 54 years old and an active executive at an electric work contractor. But it became clear that something was wrong with him 9 months before he killed himself, at a time when a company client of his had failed to pay 30 million yen in a business transaction. ...The company blamed [him] for failing to perceive that the deal he had concluded would end up with the money due being uncollectable.
    Takizawa worked hard negotiating with the client to get the money but then suffered a stroke. As soon as he was released from hospital he returned to work, leaving home around 7 am and coming back at 11 pm.
    [Hmm, 16 hours doorstep to doorstep. With, say, a ½-hr commute each way, that's a 15-hour day and a 75-hour workweek ... assuming he wasn't working weekends.]
    He was still unable to get the money. Then he began to lose his appetite and could not sleep well. The couple started spending the night in separate rooms after he said he did not want to trouble her. She said she often hear the sound of the television and the newspaper he was reading.
    He died without leaving any note.... His family and the company he worked for jointly held the funeral, where the company took all the cash offered to the family.
    [Another result of grotesque Japanese and global labor surplus caused by frozen 1940s-level statutory workweeks and productive of employee powerlessness, flaccid pay and persistent recession.]
    Mrs. Takizawa said the company also tried to deduct about 1.7m yen from his retirement pay, it had been [us]ing for his business expenses. She started negotiations with the company in an effort to obtain his full retirement payment.
    Meanwhile, she landed an office cleaning job. She had to dispose of heavy paper trash but was told not to use the elevator [huh?]. It was around that time that she had to get tranquilizers because she began to develop facial twitches. The pills made her sleepy and affected her work. She started having hallucinations in which she saw her husband. She also developed a palate disorder and could not eat well, losing 5 kilograms and becoming unable to work.
    She wrote a letter to a newspaper, saying that "I am beginning to lose my courage to live because I could not get the proper amount of my husband's retirement pay and employees' accident compensation insurance (for his death)." A lawyer read her letter and decided to take up her husband's case as a suicide resulting from overwork. She took part in the compensation negotiations with the company and attended hearings conducted by the Labor Standard Inspection Office. In December 2001, just prior to the 7th anniversary of his death, the office recognized that Takizawa "died of suicide due to depression resulting from overwork."
    [- making his widow eligible for more financial help from the government? What about the company holding the employee liable for risks he took on its behalf?]
    The company still says it has "nothing to say."
    [And presumably "nothing to pay."]

  2. China's coal miners risk danger for a better wage - ...Miners' fatal accidents averaged 10 a day in 2002, by Joseph Kahn, NYT, A3.
    XHONGYANG, China -...Becoming a coal miner in China is less a career choice than an act of desperation. It is a job for the poor who calculate that the income, however modest..\..- few men earn more than $150 a month -...outweighs the likeliest of injury and the constant specter of death. China began shart mining at least 1,800 years ago and now produces more coal than any other country, about 1.3B metric tons a year. The Chinese coal industry also has few rivals in the number of miners killed and maimed on the job. According to China's official statistics, 6,121 people died in mines last year, 8% more than in 2001.... Mining is dangerous everywhere, but a Chinese miner is more likely to die on the job than miners in almost any other country. Last year 4.7 Chinese miners were killed for every million metric tons of coal produced. The only higher reported rate was in Ukraine, at 8 miners per million metric tons. A Chinese miner is 117 times more likely to be killed at work than an American miner....
    Many more miners perish uncounted in prosaic tunnel collapses, explosions, fires, floods and elevator failures that mine owners never report, Chinese coal experts say. Many mine owners keep their records secret....

  3. [and further southeast -]
    In Manila, kidnapping as a business expense, by Wayne Arnold & Carlos Conde, NYT, C1.
    MANILA - For this city's affluent ethnic Chinese business executives, kidnapping has been a fact of life - an almost ritual form of extortion.
    [Clearly with this level of technology, we need a more convincing integration of our common interest than limitless-accumulation capitalism can provide. But if we transish gradually to limit accumulation, first by standardizing and spreading, on an adjustable basis, work per person per time period (= workweek), we begin to galvanize the kind of common interest required with this kind of powerful technology.]
    But in the last year, a trend has emerged that has added to the risks of doing business here. As more criminals are lured by the easy money that kidnapping offers, security experts and lawyers say, kidnapping syndicates are reaching out for victims beyond Filipinos of Chinese extraction, the group that has long pulled the prime economic levers here, to prey upon wealthy families from other backgrounds....
    [Equal opportunity kidnapping. Well, it must be working, - otherwise, it wouldn't be spreading so lucratively.]

1/24/2003  work-related suicide in the news - 1/20/2003  work-related suicide in the news - 1/11-13/2003  work-related deaths in the news -
  1. 1/11   Death in the workplace, editorial, NYT. A32.
    ...A 3-part series in The NY Times this week by David Barstow and Lowell Bergman showed that workplace safety rules are in fact far too weak, and dramatically underenforced. The series looked at the egregious safety record of McWane Inc., a large Alabama-based sewer and water pipe manufacturer. Nine McWane employees have lost their lives in workplace accidents since 1995 [one every year and a couple of extras]. [Wanna kill yourself and you don't want "death by police"? Just go "Work for McWane." Oops, here's another one -]
    2 at hazardous foundry tell of events costing one his legs - Two months after a brutal accident, a pair of workers speak out, by Barstow & Bergman, 1/16/2003 NYT, A16.
    A video shot by a production company in Tyler, Tex., captured this message on a wall at Tyler Pipe, from workers to federal inspectors. [photo caption - the message says TO THE INSPECTORS - HELP]
    2½ months ago, a worker [Guadalupe Garcia Jr.] was crushed by a truck at Tyler Pipe, a sprawling cast-iron foundry in East Texas where 3 [employees] have died and hundreds have been injured since 1995. Doctors amputated both of the worker's legs to save his life....
    [Another pipe company in the American South. Is there a pattern here?]

  2. 1/12   Judge: Shooting victims' kin can't sue, AP 01/11/03 06:13 EST via AOLNews.
    HONOLULU - The families of 7 Xerox Corp. employees shot to death by a co-worker [Byran Uyesugi] in 1999 can't sue the company because of the state workers' compensation law, a judge ruled. Circuit Judge Eden Hifo on Friday sided with company attorneys who argued the worst mass shooting in Hawaii history was a workplace incident.... The families argued it was unfair to consider the killings mere workplace injuries.
    [So is it fair to ream companies when an employee goes nuts?]
    In 3 separate lawsuits filed in 2001, Xerox was accused of failing to take sufficient steps to protect the employees...
    [So far we're still with the judge and Xerox, but then...]
    even though company officials knew Uyesugi had anger problems, kept an extensive firearms collection and had told supervisors he was afraid to bring any of the weapons to work for fear he might be tempted to use them.
    [Oops, our sympathies shift - this employee didn't just go nuts without warning. He's been nuts for awhile, as the next sentence indicates. So our focus becomes, what the heck can a company DO in this kind of situation? There are probably millions of employees with anger "problems" and tens of thousands of employees with firearms at home. That narrows it down to the question, what is the appropriate and/or safest response when an employee tells a supervisor that he is "afraid to bring any of the weapons to work for fear he might be tempted to use them." To avoid litigation, you might have to fire him on the spot with no notice on the basis of a veiled general death threat. Suppose you do that and he comes back anyway and blows people (maybe you) away? Chances are you're still going to get sued because they'll find something wrong with your "provocative" drastic response of firing and ushering out the door. So the burden shifts to the litigants to define what would be an appropriate response. Fire, usher out the door, and hire security guards specifically to watch for this guy forever after?]
    The lawsuits also alleged various hospitals, clinics and doctors who treated Uyesugi for mental health problems did not do enough to prevent the shootings.
    [Again, what's "enough"? This leads us to, what's up with a society in which people with "mental health problems" have no problem keeping "an extensive firearms collection"? But as soon as we get up the societal level, we've absolved the company and the hospitals etc. and we're looking more in the direction of the National Rifle Assoc.]
    ..\..The seven were gunned down at a Xerox warehouse by copier repairman Byran Uyesugi, who is serving a life prison term without parole. "The shooting occurred at Xerox's premises during work hours, and everyone involved in this was an employee of Xerox," company attorney Crystal Rose said. Under the law, companies can't be sued for damages if a worker is injured or killed on the job....
    [And obviously they can't be sued if a worker is injured or killed off the job. The whole problem of American litigiousness would make a little more sense if judges and juries had more common sense in terms of limiting awards to costs, "costs" in the case of death meaning current earnings projected to standard retirement age.]

For earlier suicide stories, click on the desired date -

  • Oct-Dec/2002.
  • Jul-Sep/2002.
  • Jan-Jun/2002.
  • 2001.
  • 2000 & previous.

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