While we are thinking about Unions…Look at all we’ve forgotten (I don’t think Scott Walker ever knew)…
PBS is running a new American Experience documentary this evening on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City in 1911. It is an interesting and historically powerful story of the beginnings of the American Union movement… the conflict between the rich and the poor… and the use of strikes to get Union-only shops in the garment industry.
The fact that Triangle workers got some concessions in 1909 and 1910 in terms of wages and shift times, there was no change in working conditions and no collective bargaining. When the Triangle fire occurred in 1911, the ladies who worked there were inside locked doors (to keep workers from sneaking out with product when managers weren’t looking.) The 200 sewing machine workers were not alerted to the fire which began on the floor below… they were trapped. Some died in the fire… some jumped from windows, very few made it to a back alley fire escape. Many were trapped on an elevator that jammed after the first trip.
Labor was not considered the equal to management… but without that labor, the garment manufacturers would not have become wealthy. Isn’t it similar to how the citizens of Wisconsin benefit from Public Employees… teachers, firefighters, police, EMTs? While we don’t have the devastating tragedy of the Shirtwaist Fire in Wisconsin, we have people who are accused of being at fault due to their pension fund contributions…their own money…for the dismal economy. Not the bankers who overmortgaged and blew out the economy. Not the politicians who made sure the rich were not taxed on their incomes so that they could invest in those banks and stock brokerages that literally stole money from the pension funds of laborers.
In the 100 years since the Shirtwaist Fire and the major changes in Union organization and management/labor relationships it brought, we have forgotten the importance of workers and, as has been a conventional attitude of politicians from the right wing who oppose Unionism and negotiations, we are further away from the management changes that occurred over the next 4 decades.
We are back where we started from.
Just by insisting that he will not negotiate with the Public Employee unions, Governor Walker might as well be saying “your lives are meaningless.” Even when the employees WANT to take pay reductions and are willing to cooperate… but want collective bargaining, the thing that has made America from FDR to the present the symbol of the middle class glory, to remain a union option.
Just watching all this tonight has gotten my hackles up… I hope it has gotten to you, too.
- “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: Some basic information” and related posts (theboweryboys.blogspot.com)
- Television Review: Two Remembrances of One Deadly Day in 1911 (tv.nytimes.com)
- Identifying the victims of a 100-year-old tragedy (boingboing.net)
- You: 100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete (nytimes.com)
- ‘American Experience’ looks at the 1911 Triangle fire (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- 100 Years Later, the Last Victims are Identified (neatorama.com)
- People@Work: Wisconsin Picks the Wrong Scapegoat for Its Budget Woes (dailyfinance.com)
- The Week Ahead: Feb. 27 – Mar. 5 (nytimes.com)
Me? I see it the way Tony Auth does:
- HuffPo’s New Hire Howard Fineman –Ultimate Insider Journalist, Pushes Dems to the Right (alternet.org)
- Grim Dems await huge House losses (politico.com)
- Olbermann on the Tax Cuts mess (americablog.com)