March 28, 2013
Mike Hall AFL-CIO
March 25, 2013 is the 102nd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York's Greenwich Village. This tragedy took the lives of 146 young immigrant garment workers. Most were trapped and died behind the building’s locked doors and others plunged to their deaths as they jumped from windows from the eighth floor and above.
It also galvanized a movement to raise workplace safety standards and enact other labor law reforms.
Last week in a ceremony before the anniversary, a memorial was held in Greenwich Village with descendants of the victims and strangers alike holding banners with the names of the young women killed. A New York Fire Department bell tolled 146 times as the name of each victim was read to the crowd.
While working conditions and job safety laws in the United States have improved tremendously since Triangle (though much still needs to be done), similar tragedies continue to occur around the world where labor laws and conditions aren’t much further advanced than in early 20th century America.
In November, a fire at Tazreen Fashion factory in Bangladesh killed at least 112 workers; seven young women, at least two of them teenagers, died in a January fire at a Bangladeshi Smart Export Garments factory.