Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

When I hear people complaining about labor unions I remind them of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of March 25, 1911.  Hundreds of young women were employed on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of a factory building a block from Washington Square in New York when, at 4:40 pm of a Saturday, fire broke out.  Exit doors had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks.  Many women jumped to their deaths.  In all, 146 died.  One of the bystanders was Franklin Roosevelt's future Labor Secretary, Frances Perkins, who said she was radicalized by the experience.  After the fire the labor movement demanded safety regulations, decent working conditions, a 40-hour week.  Without unions and government regulation, our workers are as subject to harm as those 146 young women 101 years ago.

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