Could the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory have been prevented? I am not going to answer that question just yet. Without assessing all of the information to prevent the making of unfounded accusations. First things first you may be asking yourself what a Triangle Shirtwaist is. A triangle shirtwaist is a type of blouse that many women wore in the early 1900's.
The Haymarket affair is one most important events in Chicago’s labor protest is questionably still unknown to many of high school kids and down. At this mark in Chicago history several horrifying, and great events happened. Industrial workers were getting fed up with the intense hours and wanted change from their shady bosses. People associated with all the industrial works started to arrange private meeting to talk about what’s wrong within the industries. Soon several of the bosses found out about these meeting and paid the police to eliminate these meetings.
Frances Perkins, a survivor from the Shirtwaist Factory Fire quotes “Moved by this sense of stricken guilt, we banded ourselves together to find a way by law to prevent this kind of disaster.” Frances Perkins became secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and this quote said by Perkins “something must be done. We’ve got to turn this into some kind of victory, some kind of constructive action,” helped new workplace safety standards into law in the state of New York. The benefits that I would like the audience to see is how workplace safety is important by learning about the history of regulation, OSHA, and workers compensation.
This [trust] resulted in the discharge of a large number of laborers who had to suffer in consequence . . . The most distressing feature of this war of the trusts is the fact that they control the articles which the plain people consume in their daily life” (Document E). Finally, the cruel punishment of the workers in the workplace is seen in the previously mentioned, “Concentration of Industry, and Machinery in the United States,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. “They [the labor class] reproach the machine with exhausting the physical powers of the laborer; . . . [t]hey reproach it with demanding such continued attention that it enervates, and of leaving no respite to the laborer, through the continuity of its movement . . .
In April 2013, Matthew Yglesias, an American Economics Journalist proposed the people of Bangladesh would not appreciate having stronger safety standards in their country because it would cause undue harm economically. He asserts Bangladesh should have different lower standards for safety because they are a poorer country. Most of the people involved in the New York tragedy of 1911 also known as the Triangle Fire, would not agree with Matthew Yglesias on his assertion that lower economic status would be an indication of lower safety standards in factories. Namely, the workers, the union leaders, the progressive reformers and the political leaders would all vote for higher standards commiserate with the United States. The only ones who would not argue with Yglesias are the owners of the Triangle Factory with their vested interest, their own problems of multiple fires and accusations of safety neglect.
According to AF McEvoy, the fire was “the most dramatic example of industrial disaster in the annals of American labor history” (McEvoy, 1995). This tragedy sparked outrage among the public and drove a movement to improve workplace safety. As a result, the Factory Investigating Commission was established, which led to the passage of numerous labor laws that aimed to protect the rights of workers. These laws established standards for working hours, wages, and safety measures, and provided workers with the right to organize into unions.
The workers were often subjected to sweltering heat in the summer and frigid conditions in the winter. But, that was not it, at the time there were no laws in place that required businesses to ensure their employees' safety, and this regularly lead to many injuries and fatalities in the workplace on a daily basis. There was not a single work place that did not have injured or mutilated employees, and this was due to the unsafe working conditions of the factories, “Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing a truck in the pickle-rooms, and he might have a sore that would put him out of the world; all the joints in his fingers might be eaten by the acid, one by one… There were men who worked in the cooking rooms… in these rooms the germs of tuberculosis might live for two years, but the supply was renewed every hour.” (109).
Triangle Shirtwaist Company was a main manufacturer who did not take kindly of the strike. They used police officers, to imprison the female workers on strike, while they paid the government officials to take the other girls away. On March, 25, while the workers worked, a fire began to start in the rag bin. A manager tried to put the fire out, but the fire spread rapidly and the hose did not work, due to the holes punched in the sides(Stein). As the fire escalated, the young women began to panic, and as the young women tried to escape on the elevator, they realized that the elevator could only hold 12 people, and the elevator broke down in the heat and flames.
How could such a devastating event have such positive effects? A crucial element of Chicago’s history, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 can be understood by studying the cause of its severity, its impact on the city, and the recovery efforts of the people. The widespread effects of the fire were caused by adverse weather conditions and the origin of the fire. The months leading up to fire incorporated all the elements necessary for a fire to begin, as a terrible drought plagued the city during the four months prior to the fire: from the months of July to October, less than three inches of rain had fallen (McNamara).
The detrimental Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is considered to be one of the most tragic disasters in history. On March 25th, 1911, a fire broke out and killed 146 garment workers who were mostly women. These women worked countless hours with low wages and inhumane working conditions in a factory. Even though this event was tragic, the triangle shirtwaist fire helped to shape the new world for the better. The multitude of workers trapped within the inferno to their demise was the final straw for the mistreatment of America’s workers.
These time in American history was well-known by frequent strikes for workers nationwide. Moreover, police tried to controlling lower society levels, in special workers who went on strike against large corporations. It was a corruption triangle among politicians, police and big business owners.
The work was also dangerous with not much supervising by the government. Workers, on the other hand, had little or even no bargaining power to leave the unsafe conditions. Nowadays, When Americans only pay attention when extreme work strike, levels of abuse are the norm hidden in the factories around the globe. Although the condition seems much improved, consumers don’t know the true fact- “Today, American citizens simply cannot know the working conditions of the factories that make the products they buy.
To illustrate, in 1890, John Sherman passed a bill known as the “Sherman Antitrust Act,” which attempted to counter the growing number of trusts and monopolies in the country (Doc. 4). Although the Antitrust Act failed to stop any trusts, the act did help pave the way for legislation in the early 1900’s that would help workers and workers’ rights. In conclusion,
The fired had took with it 146 worker lives and wounded 71 workers, because the factory owner chained shut the door so the workers cannot have unauthorized breaks. Not only that, but the factory’s facilities were worn out and old that it disintegrated almost immediately. A year before the horrendous deaths of these workers, they “had gone out on strike demanding union recognition, higher wages, and better safety conditions” (The American Yawp, Ch.20-2). Yet, this is how they responded to the workers’ demands. Due to occurrences like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, it called for many activists raised and pushed forward reforming America, and the government to interfere with the economy.