In a world where mental health awareness and an individual’s overall well-being are so drastically present during daily conversations, one would not immediately think that festival attendees would fall under those stigmatic topics. As the highly anticipated event is currently taking place, from August 25 to September 3, 2018, it seems as though culture, arts, and performances aren’t the only subjects surfacing from the Nevada fest’. In recent reports, it has been confirmed that several Burning Man employees have taken their own lives, and now, people are demanding answers.
After numerous friends, family, and co-workers of the victims have come forward to share their perspectives, all signs point to stress-inducing and highly dangerous work conditions, inadequate pay, and mistreatment being the main causes of the seven employees deaths. Here are a few statements in direct link to the suicides and the aftermath of the festival’s team’s unfortunate actions:
“They don’t help out the workers that are injured, quite often, and they just try to get them to work for the most by giving them the least and then discard them. They seem to feel that it’s OK to exploit workers like they’re some kind of resource that’s just there to take and not help out. They’re a multi-million dollar corporation that has franchises, and they’re not taking care of their workers.” -Calef Shaber, a former photojournalist in Iraq and Afghanistan & one of the deaths by suicide
His friends and family quickly chimed in by stating,
“He just wanted to be paid a fair day’s wage, and he wanted the crews that he worked with to be paid the same,’ said a staffer who declined to give their name. ‘He wanted it to resemble a community and a job at the same time.”
Another Burning Man employee, Ricardo Romero, discussed his personal experience via an interview with Salon.com. Here’s what he shared,
“In years past, I had friends kicked off of playa or the worksite, and you can kind of tell when managers involved in this process are looking very stern, serious and looking over. What they do is basically just toss you off the site. They give you no compensation, and they basically tell you you’re on your own. a lot of times they are people who aren’t getting paid or they are getting paid very little.”
Another current employee, whose name has been asked to remain disclosed, shared his sentiments with regards to his former co-worker, Eric Close, passing:
“I wasn’t sure when the problem developed, but I remember him being stressed out working for (Burning Man), saying that he didn’t feel like he was earning money to do what he (wanted to be) doing because he was always working.”
As always, there are two sides to the story. Burning Man has yet to address the suicides directly, however, they have released statements such as “worker safety is paramount to Burning Man and we are exceptionally proud of the extensive resources we provide to staff’, “Burning Man’s medical resources at the event also include a state-licensed urgent care facility and six satellite first-aid stations, mental health support services, and on-site emergency air transport”, and “We also have our Black Rock Rangers and People Operations teams on site to support staff in need of mental health resources.”
It has also been reported that the female employees are highly underpaid, and not to mention, that there is a specific section in the employee’s handbook that directly addresses suicide.
We look forward to seeing how the future unfolds, as it is evident that there is clearly something “off” regarding this truly unfortunate situation. We wish nothing but the best to the employees, and want to extend our thoughts to all of the family and friends of the deceased who had to undergo the pain relating to their loved ones’ deaths from 2009 to 2015.