On March 25th, 1911, fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City and the employees tried to leave the building. They couldn’t because their bosses had locked the door to prevent their employees from taking breaks. Some employees tried to escape by jumping out the windows. 146 employees died that day. Fortunately, they did not die in vain as their deaths led to the creation of new factory standard and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.
Now, in March of 1918, there will be events to remember the deaths of these unfortunate workers and to talk about the current generation of activists who are focusing on the sweatshops that exist in this world.
On March 26, 2018, there will be a presentation and discussion called “ Triangle Fire See You in the Streets” at 6:30 that will be led by the artist known as Ruth Sergel and the Cornell professor of labor relations known as Nick Salvatore. It will be at the Center for Jewish History on 16th Street in Manhattan.
Sergel, the founder of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, organizes the yearly commemoration of this unfortunate fire.
Most of the workers were either Jewish or Italian. People still feel the impact of their deaths.
On March 25th, activists will write in chalk the names of the fire victims on sidewalks in front of their addresses on the Lower East Side, Little Italy and all around Manhattan. They will not just write in chalk. They will try to inform passersby about what is happening right now with fire and worker safety issues.
The fire that happened 107 years ago was considered to be the worst factory disaster in the history of New York. This disaster was what caused some people to start a labor movement and to get the legislature to pass laws, building codes and factory regulations to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again.
The March 26th discussion will be joined by Cheryl Beredo, a director of director of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in Catherwood Library in the ILR School and hosted by Jonathan Boyarin, the Paul and Bertha Hendrix Director of Jewish Studies and the Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies in the Departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies.
This disaster must never happen again and people should make sure that it does not happen in NYC or anywhere else.