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The Fire that Started it all

Brian Young's picture
Mar 30, 2015

March 25th represented the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. This fire killed 146 garment workers.  Many where killed because the anti-union bosses locked workers into the factory so that they could not talk to union organizers.  This fire was seen as a major catalyst for pushing workers to organize and for NYC to change its fire codes to better protect workers. 

In 2011, HBO released a documentary looking back at the tragedy and tells the story of the women who perished in the fire.  Check out the documentary on HBO’s Website.

UPDATE: This past week we remembered the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Two excellent articles were written this week in the Huffington Post and the Long Island Business News, on why it is important to remember the 146 young women who died so long ago. Without this tragedy, modern safety systems that many of us take for granted would not have been enacted. A few simple changes, like requiring doors to be unlocked when workers are inside, mandatory sprinkler systems, and fire escapes that are durable, would have saved countless lives. Instead the anti-union bosses decided to lock their workers in, not spend the extra money to add a sprinkler system, and saw the fire escape fall from the building, trapping 146 workers to let the fire consume them.

This year’s remembrance is especially poignant as many on the right wing are attacking workplace regulations as ‘bad for business.’ Many of these regulations are the ones that keep workers safe, keep your food safe and ensure that mom and dad are able to come home every night. Just this week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced he would be running for president and in that announcement he said that he was going to dismantle the federal regulations that are crippling business. I ask Senator Cruz, which regulations will you dismantle? Will they be the ones that could have prevented these girls from dying? What we do know is that Texas has some of the weakest workplace safety laws in the country, which caused 493 deaths in 2013 from workplace safety accidents. That is double the number of workplace safety deaths in NY.

If we fail to remember those that died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, we should be prepared to face tragedies like this again. No longer will workplace accidents, like the Fertilizer plant explosion in Texas in 2013, be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Rather we will be more like the developing world in which it is common to see someone injured or killed and no action taken. So, 104 years later, let’s remember the 146 women who gave sacrificed their lives so that you could have a safer work environment.

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