UPDATED: The Triangle Fire: Care2 Members Have Strong Feelings

Sometimes deeply felt Care2 member comments deserve a home of their own.  Laura Smith-Gary’s first of three Triangle Waist Fire centennial posts is one that falls into that category.  Here are portions of a few:

I’m hoping Wisconsin is the beginning of a radical change in American politics.; that we, the people, begin to take our country back from the corporations who are just as contemptuous of their workers as the owners of Triangle Waist were. Which means, of course, getting rid of their front-men/women in the top echelons of government. Lynn C.

And now government representatives we have elected around this country are trying to do away with even the child labor laws. Wisconsin has proved to me that some rich %#%$#^% is trying to screw even the littlest of the little people in this country so they can make even more money on our backs and lives. I say take the money this excessively wealthy 1% has and redistribute it to the laborers of this land and watch the quality of life and our economy improve for millions, not just the few. The wealthy used to pay up to 90% of their income for taxes. It sounds like a good idea that needs to be re-implemented for the overall health of our society. That would take care of all of our country’s economic problems without the added burden on the people with the least. The redistribution of wealth, to even the playing field, would even be the “Christian” thing to do. Wealthy folks, you know who you are, show your Christianity and do the right thing. Help people, don’t use them for your own gain. Venora Dobrowolski


The lesson remains unlearned.

Imperial Foods
Processing Plant in Hamlet, North Carolina

Twenty-five fatalities and 54 people injured
in varying degrees.

Building Structure Poultry processing plant of 30,000 square
feet with open work areas, sealed concrete
slab floor, ceramic tile walls, and ceilings of
formica-type finish. Interior kept cool.

Origin and Cause The conveyor to a cooker had hydraulic line
repaired which burst when brought up to
full pressure. Hydraulic fluid expelled at
800 to 1,500 psi, ignited by heating gas
plumes of cooking vat.
Fire Spread Immediate and very rapid spread of heavy
black smoke throughout the building.

Evacuation Fireball and rapid spread of smoke caused
disorderly evacuation attempts. Several exit
doors locked, drove employees to seek
refuge in cooler or seek other exits. Rapid
build-up of toxic gases killed personnel
attempting to escape.

Detection and Alarm Plant Operations Manager found phone line
already inoperable, ran to vehicle and drove
to fire station.

Code Enforcement During the 11-year operation of the plant,
no inspection conducted by North Carolina
Occupational Safety and Health

This is what our Republicorps and Teabagger overlords intend for our future. Mercedes Lackey


Very sad. I’ve read about this story before and it is one that should be told over and over again, least we forget what businesses have and can get away with.

Wisconsin is only the beginning, it’s only the first step. Marilyn L.

For anyone who does not understand why what’s happening in Wisconsin is a big deal, THIS is why! Horrible things like this used to happen routinely in workplaces, that’s why the American labor movement began in the first place. Read the history of labor in the early 1900s- and then SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL UNION WORKERS! Unions aren’t perfect, and I personally have never actually had a union job- but that’s beside the point. The reason we have safety standards, a 40-hr week, benefits, and vacations: UNIONS. Don’t let Republicans or anyone else take our right to unions away- it’s one step closer to being slaves of industry. And aren’t we close enough to that already? michelle maiorca

I wonder how many Americans were even aware of the Triangle Coat Factory Fire prior to this article! Hell, they were only a bunch of poor, starving, worthless immigrant women. Many industries of the time allowed women and children to work in polluted, toxic sweat boxes so dangerous that their life expectancies were counted in a couple of years. Now those are the Dickensian conditions to which I’m sure everyone wants to regress!
There seems to be a bit of a parallel developing in the modern day US – not like it ever went away completely – of keeping the hard working peasants in their place at the bottom of the social ladder with no health care, decent education or labour protection. Who needs unions?! God forbid they take away a meagre percentage of the profits from the elite, ruling class who look down their noses at everyone else. The poor dears might have to give up their private planes or yachts. 
There is only a miniscule middle class anymore – mainly just the rich and the poor with the poor carry the biggest burdens of society as usual. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs a serious head shake. Linda McKellar

This is why we need unions, people. The women at the Triangle factory had just gone on strike for more decent working conditions, better pay, and shorter hours in 1909. They eventually got wage and hour concessions from ownership, but no union, and no safety improvements.


Without unions, there would be no workplace safety laws, no OSHA, no 40-hour work week, no weekends, no overtime pay, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no vacation time, no family emergency leave act, no child labor laws. And we’d all be working in the Triangle Waist Factory.

So even if you aren’t in a union, and have never been, the benefits you enjoy in your workplace come from unions. They come — literally — at the expense of the women and girls who died in the triangle fire and galvanized the labor movement.
Think about the choice as we endure the new wave of corporate greed and union busting: jump or burn. Jump or burn.    Marianne C.

And this is the sort of ‘Back to the Future’ wet dream that has seized Wall St. and the banks. This is why every decent American should fight and oppose at every turn the radical agenda of the GOP/Teabagger cabal currently stalking this country.

In the guise of fiscal conservatism, they are hell bent on stripping union workers of collective bargaining rights, working to ban unions altogether. It’s starting in Michigan. The Gov. of Michigan wants to be able to take over whole towns, if they are found to be in a ‘fiscal emergency’, a term that can mean almost anything, up to and including debt, throwing out their elected officials and installing a government of business types who will run everything for profit and you know what that leads to; substandard everything to the lowest bidder, good services and education only to those who can ‘afford it’. It’s the feudal system all over again folks.    Stephen Gyetko

The current push by the extremists in key political positions to recreate much of the same conditions that allowed this atrocity is disgusting.

This isn’t about cutting the deficit, this is about creating a two tier economic system where those who do the work, take the risks, and make the profits possible, have no say whatsoever about anything-even if it threatens their lives.  rhonda t.  

The Tea Party in particular is trying to push progress back 100 years in terms of child labor. They actually condone it! But anyway, working conditions like that were awful and as usual young women most of them immigrants, comprised the majority of the victims.   Robert O.

This system of sweat-shop employment has since been exported to the third World Countries (and not long after your own workforce were getting organised), where the workers rights and protection are only to be dreamed of, although the finished products are now in your stores and shops at very low prices. It has to be this way otherwise why would your importers and retailers use them, or perhaps the words should be aid and abet their continued abuse. Edward M.

I grew up with a mother 47 years older than me, born in NYC in 1906. She remembered her mother screaming as she lost friends to the fire. She always described the owners as villains.  Thanks for the article, I will light a candle tomorrow for them all.   Linda K.


photo by Library of Congress via Creative Commons


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Part III.
For the "riots" in nearby Sundsvall, the following were sentenced: A. Nordstrom to 2,5 years of hard labor for leading a riot and crimes against someone elses freedom and leader of an illegal demonstartion, H. Sjodin to 8 months of hard labor for participating in a riot and physical assault, Gusten Forsman to 4 months of hard labor for participating in a riot, J.E Thornkvist to 2 months conditionally for crimes agains someone elses freedom.
The family of the murdered and wounded workers got no restitution because the victims were considered rioters.

For more information, watch the movie Ådalen 31.

As a consequence of these events the next Government, that where Social Democrat, issued two new laws. The military were forbidden to act in any civil matter whatsoever, without the expressed permission by the Government and Parlament. (It hasn't happened yet, but the police are instead very trigger happy.) The staffing companies that had provided the scabs, where outlawed. That law was in effect until the 1990s.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Part II.
A commission where formed and included a judge, a politician, a lawyer, a union leader and an industry leader. They concluded that the military were not to be blamed (no surprise there), but that incidents like these, with a potential for riots, should in the future be handled by others than military forces.
The Governor, the regional police chief, Captains Mesterton and Beck, Sargents Rask and Tapper were charged and the result: The Governor and police chief were aquitted and transferred, Mesterton, Beck, Rask and Tapper were sentenced in a military court, but after appeals the first three spent a couple of days in a jail and the latter were aquitted.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Part I.
In Ådalen (Odalen) 1931, a wast number of workers marched peacefully in support of strikers at a nearby factory and against scabs. The local government official (equal to a Governor) got scared and sent for the military to protect himself, the industry owners and the scabs. The military forces were lead by Captain Nils Mesterton. On May 14, 1931, the military awaited the marchers. When they were about 100 yards from the military forces, Mesterton ordered the soldiers to fire with a machine gun and rifles. Five workers were killed, one woman and four men and five were injured. (The female worker were a bystander.) When people tried to escape Mesterton thought they were trying to go around him and he ordered the machine gun to be moved (illegal at the time). Someone dropped the weapon and bullets were spread all over the place.
A musician in the Workers Music Band, played "Cease Fire" on his trumpet, and the military stopped shooting. He was later accused of "illegally taking over command of a military troop" but the charges were dropped.

Helena Plum Bowyer
Helena B6 years ago

Financial crisis (caused by banks and the super rich), gives rise to hard times. What a perfect time to give them all more power, hive off the few remaining public services (In the UK the last few things that WE the citizens own) are being sold off. Same everywhere. What a great con. Wonder if it was planned?
What I can't understand is why these super rich and powerful can't just leave us alone with the little that is left. Is greed an addiction?

Charlene R.
Charlene Rush6 years ago

I have never mentioned this before, but, my first job, after college, was a 'union' job.
If anyone has a strange idea, that we didn't word hard, I have a news-flash for you.

My department manager, was THE, MOST exteme boss I ever had. You did not waste any time, not any 2 seconds, believe me.

Actually, I had great respect for her. It's just that she was a diligent union manager.

Meta R.
Meta Reid6 years ago

Perhaps we need more women like Francis Perkins in government today. She worked for many reforms that we, union people, enjoy today. (if you've not heard of her read: The woman behind the New Deal : the life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and his Moral Conscience by Downey, Kirstin

Maarja L.
Maarja L6 years ago

Thank you for highlighting these comments.

Virginia Tadrzynski

Regarding Imperial Foods, it was over 40 people who perished, not the 25 Mercedes quoted. I know. I went to high school either with most of them or their children. What happened....a chicken processing plant paid people 'production' wages.....a certain number of 'pieces per hour' or no $$. Anything more than that was paid by the 'piece'. In order to keep the low wage earners from 'taking home' pieces to help feed their families, the doors were chain locked from the OUTSIDE at the start of a shift. What happened to the owners? Similar to Triangle....a 'don't do that anymore' and a fine that didn't stop them from moving production to another state under another name. Every settlement claim was 'questioned' and what human life was valued at was laughable. As far as the fire department there was concerned, they NEVER inspected for anything......it was a wink, wink, nudge, nudge we'll let them slide. It was an 'acceptable loss' because most of those killed were minority (or so stated an 'unnamed' source close to the investigation). And guess what? They were PROUD to be anti-union. May the Imperial and Triangle victims rest in peace, and may the guilt associated with their deaths follow the owners into perpetuity.

Sarah Zemke
Sarah Z6 years ago

Sad... Thank you

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

Marianne C says, Without unions, there would be no workplace safety laws, no OSHA, no 40-hour work week, no weekends, no overtime pay, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no vacation time, no family emergency leave act, no child labor laws. And we'd all be working in the Triangle Waist Factory."

The absolute truth.