Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Mario Tama/Getty Images
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire serves as a reminder of why unions exist to protect workers. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the incident in New York City, which killed 146 immigrant workers within minutes, most of them young women. It was one of the biggest disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Garment workers were locked into the sweatshop during their shifts. Owners of the building basically did it so workers couldn’t take breaks. But when a fire broke out, they were unable to escape. New Yorkers watched in horror from below as workers leapt to their deaths from the high-rise above.
The fire at Triangle Waist Company sparked a massive overhaul of the labor code. New York State also adopted new fire safety laws that served as a model for the whole country.