The 109th Triangle Fire Remembrance Renews Focus on Worker Protections

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

Today marks the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a catastrophe that claimed the lives of 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women.

That avoidable tragedy led to workplace safety standards and fire safety laws as public outcry brought a renewed sense of urgency to the labor movement.

As union members on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, we memorialize the Triangle fire by fighting to protect the health and safety of workers, especially now as the City classifies many as essential workers. That list is fluid and changes daily. Alongside FDNY paramedics and healthcare workers is a growing number of job titles DC 37 represents in dozens of city and state agencies.

As the harsh realities of this latest global pandemic make clear, we are in this together.

Our healthcare workers and first responders are caring for the sick and most vulnerable, and some are getting sick themselves. Our prayers are for their recovery and their families.

Department of Education kitchen workers are preparing nutritious grab and go meals for school children. Social Workers are helping families in need. Museum workers are maintaining shuttered cultural institutions. WCS employees are maintaining closed zoos and the New York Aquarium are feeding and protecting animals, fish and wildlife. NYPD 911 and 311 operators are taking emergency calls and dispensing vital information.

These are just a few of the thousands responding to this global crisis.

DC 37 members are keeping our city running and safe, but too often we are taken for granted when we are the ones most essential to all of our safety, health, and well-being.

Today, let’s remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as we stand in solidarity, giving voice to working people so we are heard and get the protections and support we need to carry on.

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