The Triangle Fire 1911
Source: The Call (New York) March 29, 1911;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.
Fireproof buildings bear a remarkable resemblance to our courts. They have been devised for the purpose of protecting, not human life, and last of all the lives of the workers, but property.
The blaze that consumed one hundred and fifty lives of working men, women and young girls left the Triangle factory building intact. The damage to property is inconsiderable. The owner of the building and the fire insurance company stand to lose little, if anything. The owners of the Triangle shop, notorious oppressors of labor, will lose nothing. Hard-headed men of business that they are, they undoubtedly took care to insure their property to the last cent. But the workers? Locked behind iron doors and without any means of exit, they were burned and choked to death, like rebellious slaves of old who had taken refuge in a subterranean cavern and whose hiding place was discovered by their implacable masters.
But these modern wage-slaves did not even rebel. Humbly and meekly they came every day to the slave pen, begging for the privilege to toil and moil and pile up profits for their heartless masters. And they were caged in, from early morning till late in the night, barred behind iron doors, searched like thieves, and finally caught like rats in a trap and immolated on the altar of capitalistic greed.
And their survivors, those who depended upon the daily labor of the victims for daily bread? There is no law that we know of which compels the employers to make even the slightest compensation to them for their irreparable loss. Not even the Workmen’s Compensation law that was declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals contemplated a case such as theirs. That law applied only to a certain number of specified dangerous occupations. And shirtwaist making is not a dangerous occupation in itself, even though one hundred and fifty human beings were murdered because somebody blundered or neglected his duty or simply didn’t care. Was it not a fireproof building?
And the building was fireproof. Remember this, all ye wage-slaves. There was no loss of property to speak of. Not only are the sacred rights of property safe so long as we have our Courts, and our Constitution, but property itself is safe. Science has become a handmaid of property. Science makes a property safe, just as the Courts make the rights of property safe. And with fireproof buildings and fireproof Courts and a fireproof Constitution, our institutions are safe.