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Over 100 Years Ago, 123 Young Women Working in a Factory Never Came Home. It Changed Our Country

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Photo courtesy the Kheel Center on Flickr

This post originally appeared at Upworthy.

Watch the video Brandon references.

I have a hard time watching this and not getting terribly angry. Those 123 young women and 23 men who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, deserve to be remembered. But we’re watching it happen all over again in developing countries that supply Walmart, Gap, and other marketing and retail giants. Sorry/not sorry, I’m mad as hell, and I wish we could live in a world where we didn’t have to take this anymore. Warning: some violent images.

At 2:00, you’ll see the cascading effects that the fire had on workers’ rights and eliminating sweatshops in the United States. But watching it happen all over again in other parts of the world at 3:00 is heartbreaking. It was the same, exact circumstances as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, word for word. At 4:24, how do they calculate the “value” of a human life? And the images at 6:40—really? All for a $26 pair of pants?

Even as recently as 2013, there was the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,123 garment workers.

It has to end. Right now.

This blog originally appeared at aflcio.org on March 25, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Brandon Weber writes for AFL-CIO on labor and union history.


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Rana Plaza, 2 Years Later: Garment Workers Under Siege

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Image: Mike HallApril 24 is the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,130 garment workers. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center’s Tula Connell reports that in the months after the 2013 tragedy, global outrage spurred much-needed changes, including the closing of dozens of unsafe factories, the adoption of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and, most significantly, the formation and recognition of workers’ unions by the Bangladeshi government.

But in recent months, those freedoms are increasingly rare, say garment workers and union leaders….Despite garment workers’ desire to join a union, they increasingly face barriers to do so, including employer intimidation, threatened or actual physical violence, loss of jobs and government-imposed barriers to registration. Regulators also seem unwilling to penalize employers for unfair labor practices.

In addition, thousands of workers still toil in unsafe factories. In the two years since the fire at Tazreen Fashions, at least 31 workers have died in garment factory fire incidents in Bangladesh, and more than 900 people have been injured (excluding Rana Plaza), according to Solidarity Center data

Read the full story here, and on Wednesday be sure to check back with the Solidarity Center for stories from the survivors and about the lack of sufficient compensation for survivors and families of those killed.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on April 21, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log.  He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.


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