Sunday, March 27, 2011

Workers World Editorial: Triangle Fire, 100 Years Ago & Today

Published Mar 25, 2011 7:17 PM

March 25 is the 100th anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which took the lives of 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women and girls in New York City. This disaster was caused by capitalist greed. The drive to ever increase profits overrode health and safety precautions that could have protected these garment workers.

Massive protests, especially by labor unions, took place after the fire and gained some workplace safety legislation and protections. Yet today, needless deaths in privately owned factories are far from eradicated in the U.S. or in global sweatshops.

Capitalist owners still strive to garner maximum profits by squeezing workers’ wages, enforcing long hours, ignoring unsafe working conditions and refusing to pay for improvements, like sprinkler systems, wherever they can get away with it.

Last December, 29 Bangladeshi garment workers were killed in a terrible factory fire in Ashulia near Dhaka. Conditions there were very similar to those at the Triangle factory: The work areas were on high floors; exits and stairs were blocked; fire escapes were nonexistent or inaccessible. The Ha-Meem Group’s factory supplies clothing to superrich Western conglomerates such as Gap Inc., JC Penney and Wal-Mart.

One hundred years after the Triangle fire, it remains true that capitalism is bad for workers’ health. And the reach of imperialist corporations around the globe has only spread workplace dangers to new areas where companies search for cheap labor with no regard for workers’ health or their very lives.

As we join workers around the globe in building support for their struggles against the avaricious corporate owners, let’s remember that they often face the same bosses who exploit workers here at home. It’s high time to hold the capitalists responsible for their crimes.
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