Thursday, March 24, 2011

The 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fires

The meeting room walls in the Dept of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health are lined with poster-sized photographs of people who died at work.

These public servants, who have no budget yet for this year and are operating under a continuing resolution from a dysfunctional Congress, are used as punching bags by a workforce which it has made to be one of the safest in the world; that is, when OSHA is allowed to police profiteers who use immigrants as disposable labor.

OSHA wall posters now can include the workers who were kidnapped, locked in, and sexually assaulted at the DeCoster egg farms over the past 25 years.

WaPo's Howard Meyerson discusses the horrific tragedy of the Triangle fires:

The seamstresses were just getting off work that Saturday, some of them singing a new popular song, “Every Little Movement (Has a Meaning of Its Own),” when they heard shouts from the eighth floor just below. They saw smoke outside the windows, and then fire. As David Von Drehle recounts the ensuing catastrophe, in his award-winning book “Triangle,” just a couple minutes later the ninth floor was fully ablaze.

* * * *

[M]any, facing the choice of death by fire or death by impact on the city streets, chose the latter and leapt. Down they came, some already engulfed in flame — first a few, then a torrent, before the horrified crowd that had gathered by the building, which was just off Washington Square in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village.

When it was over, 146 people had either died by fire or jumped to their deaths. Most were young women, almost entirely Jewish or Italian immigrants, many still in their teens, one just 14.

Every little movement has a meaning of its own,
Every thought and feeling by some posture can be shown,
And every lovelight that comes a stealing
All your dreams must be revealing
All its sweetness in some appealing little gesture
All of its own.

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