100 years ago today, over 100 factory workers died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. The deaths could have been prevented if management had implemented basic safety precautions, but they chose not to, choosing profits over people’s lives. Here is a snippet from a great PBS documentary on the tragedy, starting at the moment the flames started to lick the walls, which would soon become gouged by the fingernails of the panicked workers trapped inside.
The government proposes new regulation to make an industry safer. The industry shouts back that the new measures are “cumbersome and costly,â€Ÿ tantamount to “a confiscation of property.” A newspaper opines, “Excited persons rarely accomplish anything…No new laws are needed.” Trade groups issue dire warnings about how the new laws will wipe out entire industries and sacrifice jobs. Are these the latest response to new Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines? Banking giants balking at financial reform? Nope, those were quotes from when fire protection guidelines were proposed after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 garment workers died. Friday marks the 100th anniversary of this tragedy.