Today, Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) introduced a bipartisan resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The resolution honors the victims of the Triangle fire and recognizes the profound impact that the tragedy had on the national movement to improve conditions in the workplace.
"The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire was one of the salient events that taught us that, as Americans, we must be capitalists with consciences," said Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means and Budgets Committees. "Women and children, some of them immigrants, perished unnecessarily simply because their employer protected profits instead of people. As we observe the 100th anniversary of the fire, let us recommit ourselves to upholding the sanctity of workers by treating them with fairness and fighting for their dignity, not in the United States of America but all over the world as well."
"With the current national climate of denigration and scapegoating of organized labor, the Triangle tragedy is a powerful reminder of just how terrible conditions were before unions pushed for basic protections and rights for workers," said Nadler. "The memory of those 146 lives lost dramatically underscores how essential 100 years of progress have been for ensuring that employees find safe and humane conditions in their workplaces."
"The Triangle Fire was a devastating tragedy which brought attention to the many problems facing factory workers in the United States and was instrumental in paving the way for worker protections and safety standards," said King. "This resolution is a fitting tribute to not only the victims of this tragedy but the men and women who have sacrificed themselves to improve workplace conditions."
On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The Triangle Fire, as it became known, killed 146 workers----the fourth deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history. In addition to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions inside the factory, managers had locked exit doors and blocked stairwells to prevent the workers from leaving early. When the already-broken fire escape collapsed, the fates were essentially sealed for the panicked workers inside -- most of whom were immigrant women between the ages of 13 and 23. Some tried to slide down elevator cables but lost their grip; many more, their dresses on fire, jumped to their deaths from open windows.
In the aftermath of the blaze, massive protests across the nation galvanized support for improved workplace conditions. The public outrage led to legislation that improved factory safety standards and protected generations of American workers from sweatshop conditions.