stories from my red thread life

Do you know how your clothing was made?

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the worst industrial disaster in New York City’s history. Unable to escape, 146 garment workers died, most of them young immigrant women. That March 25, 1911, their workplace had no fire alarm, many exits were locked from the outside and the factory’s single fire escape collapsed. Dozens of people fell or jumped to their deaths from the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the burning building. It was a tragedy for all New Yorkers, and is still commemorated today.   Garment workers then as now were lower status citizens, their conditions ignored until the horror of that fire. After 30,000 New Yorkers marched to remember the victims, among the public outcry came successful calls for greater regulation of industrial workplaces. The fire helped catalyze the birth of the modern labour movement. Many workplaces of the day were dangerous. In the 18 months leading up to the fire, thousands of New York City garment workers had been on strike, demanding fair wages and greater safety, such as adequate fire escapes and unlocked doors. As the protests continued, many factories voluntarily improved working conditions, but not the rabidly anti-union Triangle Waist [...]

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