At 4:45, just before all the workers would go home on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on an upper floor of the Asch Building, the floors occupied by the Triangle Shirt Company in New York City. The Company had no evacuation plan and only one fire escape, inside the building. The fire took off burning everything on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors. The cages on the stairwells that restricted the mostly women workers in their respective places to work could not be opened.
Two years earlier, some of these women, mostly immigrants and the wage earners of their families, had gone on strike against Triangle, only to be dismissed following the ensuing women’s workers movement through the garment district of New York. The one concession not agreed to in the final outcome of the negotiations were working conditions. Worse, Triangle refused to honor the agreement anyway.
I was in New York last week, at the NYU Computer Store (which carries GreenSmart), which is physically kitty corner from the Asch Building, now called the Brown building, where the fire occured. The fireproof building even at the time (not the contents however), shows no damage from the fire experience and now has a few plaques to commemorate the event.
I don’t exactly know where I first learned of this event, but, it was a long, long time ago and has stuck with me all these years. I spent a number of years touring manufacturing plants in different industries and have for a long time been sensitive to “work environment” issues. I’ve spent a number of years now contracting with sewing companies.
It’s because of this small piece of what most might find an obscure event in history, that GreenSmart pays close attention to the relationship between its factories and their workers. I’d like to think that all manufacturers do.
Some links to significant historical repositories: