A GOP and Libertarian Workers’ Paradise

This is what it looks like:

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. It was an important event in the rise of the modern American labor movement.

From the Wikipedia page:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.[1][2][3] Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors.

Not only were the doors locked, the ladders only reached to the 6th story, but the fire was on floors 8, 9, and 10.

The owners of the Triangle Waist Company were tried but acquitted in less than 2 hours by an all male jury. Part of the problem was a lack of regulations and laws with which to prosecute them.

So let’s cut to the chase – driftglass points us to this quote:

Regulation, which is based on force and fear, undermines the moral base of business.

-Alan Greenspan

This is what Scott Walker and the other teabagger governors want. The glibertarians and the GOP are even attacking things as basic as child labor laws.

What are you willing to give up? The 40 hour work week?  The weekend? Overtime pay?

If you have HBO, this documentary on the fire is worth watching. Ric Burns also explores the issues surrounding the fire in his New York documentary (videos embedded below).

Remembering the young women who leapt to their deaths from the Asch Building is important. Fighting the GOP, the libertarians, and the Koch brothers and other corporations who want to gut worker protections is not optional.




Thanks for posting a commemoration, bloggie.

Cornell University has an excellent website devoted to the fire, with links to such primary sources and survivor interviews and witness testimony, as well as contemporary newspaper articles: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/story/introduction.html

For those without HBO, you can watch the PBS special on the fire for free online.

@Mistress Cynica: I have been to the site on other anniversaries – they set out a white carnation with each victim’s name on a tag. It never fails to break me up.

I wonder how many citizens of this country are even aware of the fire? It wasn’t taught in Montgomery County MD when I went to school there.

TJ/ Iggy finally did something.

PM Wideload’s gubbiment was defeated in a contempt of Parliament vote today. Why?

1) It all revolved around the Stealth Fighter Plane contract. It went from $9B CDN to $16B to $30B to probably $40B. PM Wideload refused to give parliament the information it needed to vote on a money bill as per parliament rules
2) It was single sourced which is a bad idea for something that costly plus it was a no-bid contract and we’ve seen how that “saves” money.
3) PM Wideload’s gubbiment was the first ever in the entire history of British style parliaments to ever be cited for contempt of parliament. No gubbiment ever had till now.

What does this mean? May election in Canada City. I’ve actually gotten off my ass and gave bucks and soon, my time to the Libruls. Not usually politically active, but I’m pretty sick of the bullshit Harper’s done. I’m not a diehard Lib nor an Iggy fan and considering the whinging from Jack, I doubt he would do much anyway.

@ManchuCandidate: I know you grew up in Canada, but did they teach you Triangle Shirtwaist in school? All you commenters, same question.

Not that I can recall unless it was as to why the labour (CC spelling) movement came to be. I did have to read excerpts from The Jungle.

In Canada City we had our own disasters, plus the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (which the Mounties suppressed) and the various riots that happened in auto plants during the 1930s thanks to the CAW (actually the UAW at the time.)

TJ/ Of course reading the tea leaves… the news article shows an Ipsos Reid poll showing Con support at 43%.

Which might be a majority, but I’ve had my doubts about Canada City polling for the last decade especially as they’ve under counted Liberal numbers. I tend to lop off about 3-6%. I’m guessing the real number is around 39%.

@blogenfreude: I learned about it when I was in high school, but from a time-travel novel called Time and Again. I was obsessed by it and dug out other books on my own. Don’t recall a mention in school, but I left for college before Jr. year American history course.

@Mistress Cynica:
I only know about it because of a post on another blog a few days ago. I never heard of it before that.

I don’t remember learning about Triangle Shirtwaist in school but throughout my adult life I’ve dabbled in union history so have been aware of it. I had not, however, previously seen the PBS program Cynica linked to above, but now I have. It should be required viewing for everyone but most especially those who insist we don’t need government regulation of business.

@Capt Howdy: Same. And I went to a smarty-pants magnet school!

I learned about it through lefty/labor work. I also met a woman who I think was the last survivor — she was over 100 at the time. She said she got out because she figured that the bosses would have a way out, so she went upstairs to the management office and she was right. One thing that is sometimes overlooked is that, like most of the victims, the owners were Jewish immigrants.


I’m pretty sure we didn’t hear about it in school, but I also recall reading The Jungle in 8th/9th grade. I wonder if they still teach it…

My only annoyance with the Triangle commemorations is that far too many of them pretend like everything got fixed after that, and that such things can’t happen today (HAH!). Sort of like how the civil rights movement is portrayed – I actually had a student on an MS history test write an essay on how “because of Martin Luther King, there’s no more racism in Mississippi”. Mind you, that was a shade better than the “MLK freed the slaves” and “MLK was our first black president” papers that we saw tons of, but still…

I do not recall being taught about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in school, but did see the PBS documentary – it’s excellent. However, as regards my formative years, I vividly recall reading Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” in Mr. Anderson’s Social Studies class as a Junior in high school (’68-’69). The book and class had a profound effect on me as I was indoctrinated in learned about the sanctity of labor, satanic nature of capitalism, evils of wage slavery, the beneficent effects of all government regulation, and the selfless hyper-competence of bureaucratic technocrats designing, implementing and enforcing said regulations.

Am I being “glib” and overstating the “lessons” a bit? Sure. But I don’t consider that any more hyperbolic than say – drawing a straight-line connection from turn of the century labor struggles against private industrialists to current day public sector employees (who are paid higher wages and benefits than comparable private sector employees) in their heroic struggles against the evil elected representatives of the taxpaying public.

In any case, what I called the “Anderson effect” stuck with me through most of my college career, until I read some books with a different perspective (you know what they were) and learned a bit more about my family history.

My grandparents were Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the US and met in Chicago in that exact same “Jungle ” and “Triangle” timeframe (1906-1912). I suspect my grandmother was an illegal – coming through Canada. She worked in a sweatshop rolling cigars, my grandfather as a furrier, variously for others and eventually in his own shop. They struggled to raise a large family on little money their whole life. I’m sure some of the conditions they worked in were pretty bad. I also know for a fact that they would not have traded a minute of what they found here, for the life that they left behind. It’s a matter of perspective.

Nope, they didn’t teach it to me, but I did learn about the neutron bomb in 6th grade and wrote Jimmy Carter (not part of a class project).

Thing is, people (adults and children) still work under these conditions in US protectorates so the label can say “Made in the U.S.A.” and we can feel all good about it.

Look for the union label, when you are buying a skirt, dress or pants.
Remember somewhere, the unions sewing
We keep on growing (is that right? I’ll sing the BPP anthem next)

Grrr. I didn’t used to have to close HTML tags at the end of a comment.

I was taught about the fire in my American History, as compared to Europeon History, class at school in London. In between bouts of loading anthracite into the pot-bellied stove that heated our classroom. Plus I’ve read a lot about it since living in NYC and have seen several documentaries. And I saw the remarkably fine musical on the subject by Stephen Schwartz entitled Rags (one of noje’s faves. I told him I saw the workshop with Julia Migenes Johnson and he’s all like OMG WTF).

In other news — today’s winnah iz… ;-P

@Dodgerblue: :-D


Gar! Can’t find video of the woman who snuck in “Lift Every Voice…” when folks expected her to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

@JNOV: Now I’m in tears … what has happened to this country? And when Pete Seeger goes, I will fall apart …

@blogenfreude: Yes. There was a page or two devoted to it and other effects of the Industrial Revolution in our American History textbook. I’m surprised the only other person here who learned about it was the Limey. Then again, I did grow up in the liberal utopia that is Houston, Texas.

@blogenfreude: Don’t cry, darling. Okay, go ahead and cry–the past (how many decades) are definitely tear worthy. I can’t bring myself to read our new guv’s budget…

@libertarian tool: You are a fine writer and thinker, and an honorable foil in these parts (says the newbie), but you tripped up on that canard about public sector employees earning more than comparable workers in the private sector. Ever looked at what a nurse can make in a private nursing home vs what he can make in state care? BIG difference, except for the modest pension that comes with the $50 k paycheck after thirty fucking years of work.

Oh, my word — I just watched the last episode of season 4 of Dexter. Are we allowed to talk about it now?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: It was in my American History book. I guess that was in the good old days of the Texas school board pre-whitewashing.

the insult to injury re the fire was the fact that the owners made a fortune from it. they were heavily insured….

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: @cynica
i thought the ending was GREAT! i knew deb knew, didn’t you?
did you catch the final episode of Big Love…meh.

@baked: I thought it was great too — especially because it was Rita, who was nothing but annoying. Who lets their kids jump on beds in a hotel room when they’re trying to talk on the phone?

I am hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a dream at the start of season 5.

Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment