previously published in examiner
Part 4 of the Sweatshop series
What went wrong with the Strike at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
Wealthy women of the time such as Ann Morgan and Alva Vanderbilt Belmont were sympathizers and championed the cause. The strike eventually gained better pay and better working conditions for garment workers, but did not get union recognition. Strangely enough the triangle shirtwaist workers were among the groups that would not sign.
Could it be that they were even more afraid of company owners then is written about in the annuals of history? When you look at the climate, they had the backing of garment industry and the powerful people like the Ann Morgan (J.P. Morgan) and the Vanderbilt’s behind them, yet the women still did not sign. There has to be more to the story than meets the eye.
On a psychological note it is fair to conclude that the women were intimidated by the bosses and were too afraid to speak about what went on inside that factory. They were too afraid of retaliation and therefore they did not sign.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Like all factories the inflammable material was scattered all over the place, including scraps on the floors. No one knows for sure why the fire started, or if it was intentional. It could have been caused by a lit cigarette or from the sewing machine engines, The fire started on the 8th floor. The people on the 8th and 10th floors were alerted about the fire and able to get out in time. However, the people on the 9th floor were trapped. The stairwell was already full of smoke and the only other exit was locked because the company was afraid of workers stealing from them. The elevators stopped working and the fire escape, which was already broken at the time, collapsed as workers frantically tried to escape.
Horrified bystanders below watched as 62 women jumped out of the window 9 floors above and pummeled to their deaths. Some women were already on fire as they jumped to their deaths.
To be continued
The Montreal story is the same story of marginalized individuals all around the world.
For more information on the Montreal needle trade and the horrendous sweatshop situation in Montreal
Centre des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrants / Immigrant Workers Centre (CTI-IWC)