March 25 is the anniversary of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 that took the lives of 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition explains what happened next:
There was a trial, but the owners, long known for their anti-union activities, got off. The fire became a rallying cry for the international labor movement. Many of our fire safety laws were created in response to this tragic event.
Thankfully, there are books and websites with primary documents for teaching about the Triangle Factory Fire (see below) and another major event in textile workers’ history — the Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Mass.
There are also resources to make contemporary connections. For example, there is a moving scene in the film Made in L.A. where three sweatshop workers visit the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side of New York and realize that their own struggle for decent working conditions and wages has a long history in the United States. The Zinn Education Project offers a list of resources for teaching about labor.