Reviving the Call to Action of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

In this 1911 file photo provided by the National Archives, labor union members gather to protest and mourn the loss of life in the March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. [AP File Photo/National Archives]

About the Author: Barbara Shailor serves as Special Representative for International Labor Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Promotion of fundamental labor rights and safe workplaces is a core U.S. value.

Over one hundred years ago, on this day, a fire started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Manhattan. The fire swept through the top floors, too high for ladders to reach. Hundreds of workers, mostly immigrant women and girls threw themselves off window ledges onto the streets below. One hundred and forty-six workers were burned or crushed to death.

The Triangle Fire galvanized hundreds of activists to push for fundamental reforms in the workplace. Frances Perkins, who stood helpless watching the fire, became an even more fearless advocate for workers’ rights. She later became secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Today, hundreds of organizations commemorate the Triangle Fire by redoubling efforts to reform laws to protect the safety of working… more »

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    Workers rights are essential. Without protection, we will burry our workforce.
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