Immigrant workers, then and now...
By Tula Connell, The Nation
March 24, 2011
When word got out that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had ordered the windows of the state Capitol building bolted shut during the protests against his attacks on public employees, it was a chilling reminder of how employers of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company had locked their factory doors, preventing the young, mostly immigrant women from escaping the deadly fire that killed 146. Employer groups like the Manufacturers’ Association had fought legislative efforts to install sprinklers in buildings, and garment manufacturing owners had resisted attempts by workers to form unions and gain bargaining rights so they could address job safety issues and improve wages and hours.
As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire on March 25, it’s sobering to realize many of the lessons we thought had been absorbed must be learned again—and again. The Triangle fire, a symbol of unfettered Gilded Age greed, still stands burning before us. From the lack of job safety and health protections to the treatment of immigrant workers to the attacks on the right to form a union and bargain for a better life—the issues raised by the Triangle fire still have not been resolved.
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