The continuing struggle of garment workers
By Beth Connors-Manke
If you view history as a discrete set of events, then the similarities are eerie. March 1911: 146 garment workers, many of them young women, die in a factory fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. November 2012: 111 garment workers, many of them women, die in a factory fire at the Tazreen Fashions Company. Neither building had a sprinkler system, although the technology was available. Both factories had fabric stored in ways that led easily to raging fires; in both factories, escape routes were blocked and workers were hindered from speedy evacuations. In each case, workers had protested labor conditions before the disasters.
However, if you view history as a long struggle for progress and social justice, the similarities are depressingly tragic. One hundred years after the Triangle fire in New York City, the Tazreen blaze in Dhaka, Bangladesh, again finds Americans thoughtlessly complicit in deadly working conditions for garment workers. It may not have happened in one of our industrial cities, but the Tazreen fire still occurred in our supply chain—it is still a product of our economic structure and attitudes about labor.