Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

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Lauren McDaniel
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Immoral owners ignored basic worker’s rights. Exceptionally hazardous working conditions, ridiculous long hours, and low wages were the lives of the workers at the Triangle Waist Company. Most workers were women immigrants seeking a better life in the United States. Speaking out would end with the loss of their needed jobs, forcing them to suffer personal indignities and severe mistreatment. Because of the poor working conditions the Women’s Trade Union League helped the younger women workers go on strike. This incident sparked a spontaneous walkout of its 400 employees. An agreement was made that established grievance system in the garment industry after the cloak maker’s strike of 1910.

A fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Waist Company on March 25, 1911. Terrified workers were helpless with their efforts to open the ninth floor doors which led to the Washington Place Stairs. Owners locked the exit doors claiming that workers stole supplies. The ninth floor fire escape led nowhere and it could not handle the weight of the workers trying to escape. Others waited to be rescued only to find the firefighters’ ladders were too short which kept any water from the hoses from reaching the top floors. The last option for the workers was to jump.

After the fire many concerns about health and safety arose. Groups like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Women’s Trade Union League fought for better working conditions and protective legislation. The fire showed how insufficient fire inspections and precautions were at the time. This tragedy could have been prevented with the correct precautions.

Protesters arose, puzzled and angry at the absence of concern and the greediness that made this possible. People were demanding restitution, justice, and action that would protect the weak and the troubled. Workers quickly went to union quarters with demands of having...
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