Friday, March 25, 2011
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Centennial
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in which 146 people died. Many of the 500 people employed there were Jewish and Italian immigrants and women and children as young as 13 and 14 years old.
On the afternoon of March 25, 1911 as the workday was winding to an end, a fire broke out in the factory that was located on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of what is now known as the Brown Building. Because the managers locked the stairwells and doors, many people couldn't escape the burning building and jumped to their deaths.
Of the 146 people who died, 129 were women. max Blanck and Isaac Harris, who survived the fire by fleeing to the building's roof.were tried for first and second degree manslaughter in December 1911. They were acquitted, but lost a subsequent civil suit in 1913.
It is also described by Frances Perkins as "the day the New Deal began."
The Brown Building became a National Historic Landmark as a result of the tragedy and the events that it triggered in its wake. .
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire fueled the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, improved work safety standards, tougher fire codes and the enactment of progressive labor laws in New York State.
On the anniversary of the fire members of the ILGWU read the names of the fallen in a memorial service in front of the building During the 50th anniversary memorial service of the Triangle fire, ILGWU President David Dubinsky said, “We want a fitting memorial to the martyrs we honor today. No better one can be found than to increase the respect for and the safety of workers.”
We are now at the centennial anniversay, and we now have Republican governors such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker wanting to take us back to the bad old days of laissez-faire capitalism, workers rights being trampled and lax or nonexistent rules and regulations for businesses.
The centennial anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is a warning and reminder of the type of work world we'll have if we allow that to happen.