The fire claimed the lives of 146 immigrant garment factory workers, mostly female and of Italian or Jewish descent. Horrendous working conditions, typical of the era, kept workers locked inside the factory during their long shifts. This was done by factory owners to prevent theft of goods. However, the fire brought much needed attention to the disregard for working conditions and resulted in a huge passage of New York State pro-labor legislation - 36 laws in total.
The anniversary is apropos, coming at a time when there is a need to strengthen the image and voice of the American labor movement. Amidst the recent struggles to strip Wisconsin workers of their collective bargaining rights, the centennial reflection of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire sheds light on the significant safety improvements that were made as a result of unions working so that the lives did not perish in vain.
Continuing the remembrance of the Triangle fire are two events this upcoming week. This Monday, April 4th, The International Labor Rights Organization (ILO) will hold a forum at The George Washington University, Gelman Library at 7 PM. The event is free and open to the public. This will be followed by an ILO awards ceremony and reception at the Communication Workers of American Headquarters on April 6th. The ceremony will reflect upon the legacy of the international anti-sweatshop movement. Also, Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, United Steelworkers, American Federation of Teachers and Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity will be honored.
http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/ (story, victims list, transcript of criminal trial)