The anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is this week. This event has been coming up in my life frequently of late.
Mary and I just got through this part in a giant 6-part documentary on the history of new York; we recently went through the tenement museum here, which deals with ‘those kinds of issues’; and, on account of the anniversary, there’s been some press comparing that event to political battle over unions in Wisconsin.
It’s a gruesome event and, unsurprisingly, served as a catalyst for pro-union legislation, improvements in workplace safety and I believe its occurrence prevented other such tragedies.
But my hackles always get raised when presented with one-sided narratives. The kind of self-satisfied ease with which left -leaning folks present this event and its ‘context’ only avails itself to the victors of history. Sacrilegious as it is to say, I bet that most factory conditions of the day were tolerable by the standards of the day.
Most isn’t all, of course, and a single disaster like this is enough to condemn the entire system supporting it.
Much as unions really irritate me, I’m not terribly surprised they exist.