Originally posted in the WSWS, this is a lesson we all can understand. Never forget that the want of money can lead many people to the disregard of others. This is again happening. Unions are why you have your children in school and not working beside you in the factory or fish house. They are why you have a forty hour work week and some safety in the workplace. Much suffering and many deaths were caused by those that profited from the toil and sweat of the workers. Route out the infiltrators in the unions , take back the union for the worker and support others when they need it.
100 years ago: Triangle fire kills 146 in New York City
Tenth floor of Asch building after Triangle fire
On March 25, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, which was located on the eight, ninth, and tenth, and eleventh floors of the Asch building in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Before the blaze could be brought under control 146 garment workers died, most of them Jewish and Italian girls and young women.
The disaster, one of the worst in the history of US industry, illustrated in the most horrific fashion the brutality of American capitalism. The women, whose wages were not enough to support a family and were typically handed over to parents, worked in appalling conditions.
Their workplace was littered with the flammable cotton refuse used to make shirtwaists (women’s blouses). To control “worker theft,” factory owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris had factory doors locked from the outside; in the aftermath of the fire, charred bodies were found grouped together around these still-locked doors. The fire department of New York, the largest and most advanced city in the US, had no means of reaching the women screaming for help from the high rise factory. This resulted in dozens of women jumping to their deaths to avoid the flames.
A court acquitted Blanck and Harris of all wrong-doing that year, and a later civil settlement resulted in just $75 payment to the families of each dead worker. Taking into account a sizable insurance settlement, the owners actually gained money as a result of the tragedy.
It is often claimed that the Triangle fire encouraged the advance of reform in the US, and especially in New York. While this is undoubtedly true, the main impetus to reform was the threat posed by the growing militancy and radicalism of the workers. The garment industry was home to some of the first large industrial unions in the US. One of these, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, had in 1909 been at the head of the “Uprising of the 20,000,” largely immigrant garment workers in New York City. At the same time, socialism was exerting a profound and growing influence among New York’s immigrant workers.
For many more photos go to Cornell University
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="366" caption="Fire fighters arrived at the Asch Building soon after the alarm was sounded but ladders only reached the sixth floor and the high pressure pumps of the day could not raise the water pressure needed to extinguish the flames on the highest floors of the ten-story building. In this fireproof factory, 146 young men, women, and children lost their lives, and many others were seriously injured. Photographer: unknown, March 25, 1911"][/caption]
- A police officer and others with the broken bodies of Triangle fire victims at their feet, look up in shock at workers poised to jump from the upper floors of the burning Asch Building. The anguish and gruesome deaths of workers was witnessed firsthand by many people living or walking near the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place. Others read about it in the many newspaper reports circulated during the following days and weeks, bringing the conditions of garment worker into public scrutiny as it had been during the shirtwaist strike of 1909. Photographer: Brown Brothers, March 25, 1911
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="650" caption="After the Triangle factory fire was extinguished, broken bodies, hoses, buckets, and debris around the building testify to the extent of the struggle and the scale of the tragedy. Photographer: unknown, March 25, 1911 "][/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="650" caption="International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 25 began the strike with $10 in their treasury. A special edition of the city's Socialist paper, The New York Call, told the story of the strike in English, Italian and Yiddish. Copies were donated to local 25 by the publisher and sold by union members to raise money for strike expenses. Photographer: unknown, December 1909"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="605" caption="Shirtwaist strikers march in snowy streets, often without warm clothes or sturdy shoes. Photographer: unknown, ca. 1910 "][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="650" caption="Women who were arrested on the picket lines and sent to Blackwell’s Island wear “Workhouse Prisoner” signs claiming their service with pride, and were cheered by other strikers and supporters. Photographer: unknown, ca. 1910 "][/caption]
Is it wrong to want food for your family? Is it wrong to want a roof over your head? A warm dry place for your children to rest? From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Then and now it is a fight! Never let the mind of the oppressors rest.