Friday, March 25, 2011

100th Anniversary Of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

In New York City on March 25, 1911 a fire broke out in the "fireproof" Asch building which housed the Triangle Waist Company factory. In the first eighteen minutes of the fire 146 people died. Most were young immigrant women between the ages of thirteen and twenty. They died because their boss had them working in a fire trap with oily floors and too many work tables crammed into too small a space. They died because the doors to the stairwells and other exits had been illegally locked. They died because the only fire escape on the outside of the building, which did not reach the ground, collapsed. They died because fire sprinkler systems were not required in commercial buildings. They died because they were on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of a building when fire ladders and hoses could only reach the sixth floor. Some died because they decided that jumping from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of a building seemed better than burning alive. They all died because making money was more important than human lives.

The outrage provoked by this tragedy and the not guilty verdict reached in the manslaughter trial of the factory owners led to the growth of the newly formed International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, new labor laws and fire safety codes in the State of New York and, slowly, the rest of the country.

The ongoing tragedy of the Triangle Factory fire is the fact that sweatshops still exist in this country with workplace horrors continuing as shown by the 1991 Hamlet, North Carolina chicken processing plant fire and the 1995 enslavement of workers in an El Monte, California garment sweatshop. The Republican Party's efforts to dismantle both unions and the labor laws in this country is a misguided, self-serving, greedy attempt to continue receiving gigantic sums of money from the U.S. business sector. Shame on them and shame on us if we let them get away with it. The business of business is to make as much money as possible and history has shown us that when this goal gets in the way of worker safety, worker safety gets kicked into the gutter.

Remember the Triangle Fire!


1. The names of the victims including 16 year old Tillie Kupferschmidt whose grave marker is shown above.

2. The many ways in which the building was unsafe.

3. Cornell University, Remembering The Triangle Factory Fire 100 Year Later, website.

4. The New York Times coverage of the anniversary.

5. Stop Sweatshops!


Blue Witch said...

Plus ca change, eh?

la pergrina said...

Umm, ca change?