The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Centennial
[History of the Needlecraft Industry, 1938, by Ernest Fiene (Detail)]
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, just east of Manhattan's Washington Square Park, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the city's history. 146 garment workers, mostly Jewish and Italian women, died as a result of this fire, either by being burned or as a result of jumping to their deaths. Most of the workers could not escape because managers locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to keep them from leaving early. Fire trucks' ladders could only reach the sixth floor - the those who perished were on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors.
Occuring in the midst of five years of labor organizing in the clothing industry in a numer of cities across the United States, the fire schocked the city, the country and the world. Legislation requiring improved factory safety standards was passed in the immediate aftermath of the fire. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Amalgamted Clothing Workers of America, and other unions have been fighting ever since for better and safer working conditions for working men and women in all workplaces.
The Jewish Labor Committee and many organizations, unions, schools and other institutions are marking the 100th anniversary of this historic tragedy in a range of ways. Here are a few:
In New York City, the New York Labor History Association, the United Hebrew Trades - New York JLC, Workers United, The Forward Association and others are cosponsoring a talk on the Triangle Fire and its Implications, March 1st at New York University, 6 p.m.; there will of course be the annual commemoration March 25th, from 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m., at the site of the fire. For details, call the UHT at 212-477-0767 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee is organizing an event as well - for details, call Michael Hersch at 215-587-6822 or email us at PhiladelphiaJLC@jewishlabor.org. Roosevelt University's and UIC History Departments, the Illinois Labor History Society, the Chicago Jewish Labor Committee and others are cosponsoriting a talk on April 7th at the Gage Gallery - for details, call Eli Fishman at 312-607-0260 or email us at ChicagoJLC@jewishlabor.org. In Los Angeles, the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region is organizing a commemoration togethere with a number of labor union locals - for details, call Leslie Gersicoff at 323-658-5500 or email us at JLCLA2@aol.com. The Remember the Triange Fire Coalition has information about many other activities planned in these communities and elsewhere.