Friday, March 25, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: "Repealing the Last Century"

On March 25, 1911, one hundred years ago, a tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory left 146 workers dead. The frightened victims were mostly young and Irish, Italian or Jewish immigrants. At least 120 of the victims were either burned alive or jumped to their deaths from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors. As many as forty young women threw themselves out of windows onto the streets of Washington Square in an effort to escape.  The stairways in the ten story building were padlocked by the owners, leaving the workers trapped by the devastating flames.

Although the fire was all over within thirty minutes,the tragic event was a turning point for the nation and an important factor in creating the labor movement. It paved the way for collective bargaining and the adoption of a number of fire, safety, and building codes.

Some  have forgotten the world without the union, but the recent events in Wisconsin under their new Republican Governor and the rising anti-union swell in states under Republican leadership should be cause for concern. Dust off your history books and refresh yourselves about the changes collective bagaining contributed to the welfare of our nation.

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