100 Years Since the Triangle Factory Fire

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City, the infamous workplace fire that killed 146 people and resulted in widespread organizing for safer working conditions.  The majority of the victims were young women and Jewish or Italian immigrants many still in their teens. Their names and some details can be read here.

There is great coverage of the event, the aftermath, what we learned and where the labor movement is today in the New York Times, the Jewish Daily Forward, the Nation and elsewhere.  President Obama passed a resolution that said, “The Triangle factory fire was a galvanizing moment, calling American leaders to re-examine their approach to workplace conditions and the purpose of unions.” You can President Obama’s read the entire statement here.   HBO is airing a documentary “Triangle, Remembering the Fire” and this coalition is organizing events around the country.

Like so many Jewish immigrants, parts of my own family arrived in this country and worked in textile factories in New York city,  so this event hits close to home.   And today, with the vast majority of clothing manufacturing  happening overseas, we cannot assume that conditions for workers have improved.   In other industries, workplace safety remains a major concern and sadly events like this continue. I encourage you to read some of the coverage and leave a comment here if you have thoughts on the event or if you see the documentary or attend any of the commemorative events.