Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire commemoration in Albany, New York

Image courtesy of the American Labor Studies Center.

At approximately 4:45 PM on 25 March 2011, an improperly extinguished match or cigarette butt started a fire that quickly spread through the cramped, fabric-laden Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building (now the Brown Building) on New York City's Washington Square. Most of the employees on the eighth and tenth floors were able to escape, but those on the ninth floor learned of the fire only when flames began spreading around them. Flames kept them from using one of the exits, factory owners kept another exit locked in an effort to prevent theft, and the wrought iron fire escape quickly collapsed under the weight of desperate employees. Two courageous elevator operators were able to save some of the workers, but one car was soon stopped by the heat and the other by the weight of the bodies of employees who had jumped into the elevator shaft. Fire Department ladders reached only to the sixth floor. Dozens of desperate workers chose to leap to their deaths before the flames reached them. Less than half an hour after the fire broke out, 146 workers, most of them young women or teenage girls, were dead. The names of six of those who perished remained unknown until earlier this year.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire spurred a wave of activism and governmental reform at the local, state, and, ultimately, the federal level; future U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins and several other people who rose to prominence during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt were among the horrified onlookers who watched dozens of young women and men plunge to their deaths, and the experience remained with them for the rest of their lives.

This Friday at 4:00 PM in the New York State Museum's Clark Auditorium, Albany will join New York City organizers in honoring those who perished on 25 March 2011 and highlighting the reforms that followed. This hour-long program will feature members of the New York State Legislature, prominent academics, and members of the media and will provide background on the fire and its aftermath, an important event in New York's labor history and in the creation of progressive legislation aimed at improving working conditions for New Yorkers and Americans. As a special tribute, names of the victims will be read.

This event is sponsored by the American Labor Studies Center, the Civil Service Employees Association of New York State, New York State United Teachers, the Public Employees Federation of New York State, the New York State Department of Labor, and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust. Driving, parking, and public transportation information is available here.

1 comment:

Atlanta Roofing said...

After the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City, laws to protect workers were passed. Now corporations have moved production off-shore where they can violate the standards of decency and safety established in the United States. They are promoting a race to the bottom for workers.