Today marks the 100th anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claimed the lives of 146 individuals, mainly young immigrant women. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire occurred in the context of a situation in which women, poor working people and immigrants were not valued members of society, and regulations regarding working conditions and building codes were either not in place, or were unenforced.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a watershed moment in U.S. history, giving impetus to the labor movement and the push to improve safety standards in buildings (Ned has a brilliant post on the structural issues involved). For decades, workplace safety standards in the U.S. have been among the highest in the world due to strong unions and high regulatory standards, but a recent lapse in standards has led to situations eerily similar to the T.S.F. tragedy and the implementation of dead peasant insurance. Of course, by offshoring much of the manufacturing, multinationals have moved the modern day equivalents of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to other countries where the underage, underpaid workers won't horrify the American public by dying at their feet.
AFTERWORD Workers' rights, women's rights, and governmental regulation of corporations are three of the major pillars of American liberalism, and three of the major factors in America's economic success. At this time, the right-wing is seeking to erode gains in all of these areas. We forget the lessons of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire at our peril.