Workers, Labor Leaders, Elected Officials Join with Families of Triangle Fire Victims to Commemorate 103rd Anniversary of Tragic Blaze
Group Highlighted Recent Tragedies in Harlem, Bangladesh and Vietnam as Need
for Continuation of Fight for Workers’ Rights
New York, NY – A group of labor leaders, students, workers, elected officials, and activists gathered today with family members of the 146 workers lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire,to celebrate the lives of those who perished 103 years ago in the tragic workplace blaze.
The commemoration, held at the location of the fire – the intersection of Washington Place and Greene Street in Manhattan—began with a musical tribute from students from the Neighborhood School on the Lower East Side, and continued with remarks from speakers including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James,Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez,
New York State Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera, United Federation of Teachers Vice President Karen Alford, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Executive Director Monsignor Sullivan, who highlighted the need to protect workers.
“When we remember the workers who were killed in the Triangle shirtwaist factory – what we are remembering is the struggle to for justice for working men and women," said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "That struggle was not just in New York but all over this country – and it continues to this day. The Council will work every day to ensure that we fight for hard working New Yorkers and advocate policies that will help the middle-class.”
“The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was one of our City's greatest tragedies - but it was also an event that changed America, paving the way for progressive workplace reforms that protect men and women to this day,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “We still face many challenges on behalf of workers' rights in our City and around the world. The memories of those we lost should strengthen our resolve to always treat workers with fairness and respect.”
Family members read the names of the workers who perished during the blaze, and flowers were laid at the site of the fire, while a bell tolled.
“Today is about honoring workers, regardless of industry,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We are all workers, and today we come together to honor the 146 lives that were lost, and to take a true stand against further tragedies like the Triangle fire. Workers who leave home in the morning have the right to return home safely that night. The New York City labor movement remains committed to helping to improve conditions for workers here in New York City, and around the world.”
“Today’s ceremony remembers the lives that were lost 103 years ago, but it also calls attention to the fact that there is still much more work to be done to improve safety conditions for workers,” said Edgar Romney, Secretary-Treasurer of Workers United. “We are standing together to fight for all workers.”
The event continued with testimony from workers representing various industries including laundry centers (representing Workers United), contracted airport workers (representing 32BJ SEIU), and carwashes (representing RWDSU).
"Worker safety when at work must be a basic right," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. " A worker should never have to sacrifice safety and health to earn a living. We must demand that all workers - whether here in New York City or in Bangladesh or anywhere - be treated with dignity and respect."
The commemoration concluded with the raising of a fire truck ladder to the 6th floor of the building, the highest point it could reach in 1911, although the fire engulfed the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors.
“The workers of Triangle came from different countries and ethnic backgrounds. In remembering their tragedy we renew our commitment to the principle of solidarity,” said MaryAnn Trasciatti, of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. “We stand together as workers, united in our aspirations and in our struggles, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, or race.”