Off-Topic and Obligatory: Unions

I can't be the only one who is a little appalled that the DOWN WITH UNIONS!!! thing is going on when we are but one month shy of the centennial anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  Surely this irony isn't lost on most people (well, on most people who are aware of what the fire was, what it signified and set off in American workers' rights movement, in the women's rights movement, in the immigrants' rights movement, and so on...).

Seriously, guys, read some of the interviews with survivors.  Read about the justice that didn't come (ever) for the owners of that company.  Read about the total disregard for life and limb (of others, of course).  You read that and you try to argue with me about unions.  No, the teachers in Wisconsin aren't fighting for unlocked fire exits so they don't burn to death.  Yes, they are fighting for quality of life, and in many ways symbolic and tangible, that fight started after the Triangle fire.

I had classes in that building when I was at NYU.  In my AP American History class we had a whole unit on the rolling intersection of the Industrial Revolution, the Gilded Age, and the New Deal, so the location of the Triangle fire was already in my sphere of knowledge when I had my first classes as a freshman Drama major.  These days, that's primarily a College of Arts & Sciences building, but most of my required theatre studies classes and a handful of electives were there.  I had several, over my four years, on the eighth floor where the Triangle fire started.  It's a neat old building.  Technically NYU connects two buildings there; I forget what the other one's called, but it's the home of CAS and has beautiful views over the Village and Washington Square Park.  Really beautiful, with lots of staircases, lots of fire hoses, lots of sturdy fire escapes, lots of sprinklers.

Something else I experienced frequently while at NYU?  Student teacher strikes.  I don't know what the situation is like now, but the president (John Sexton?) had a reputation for exploiting student teachers.  Furthermore, the student teachers weren't allowed to unionize.  A lot of the protests and pickets I witnessed took place at the northeast corner of Washington Square Park, right at the College of Arts & Sciences building, right where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company operated.


  1. I believe the apathy is coming from a general attitude of "this certainly couldn't happen in this day and age".

    Really? Modern businesses are unwilling to throw their employees under a bus to improve their bottom line?

    Divided we fall.

  2. That's quite possible. It's also because things like a living wage are so much less dramatic than young men and women being burned so badly that their bodies couldn't be identified.

    Actually, doing some early searching for my Steamcon outfit (not 'til October this year), I came across a website with super cute, super cheap clothing. The discovery prompted a discussion between me and two of the Comtesses about modern-day sweatshops, preferring to shop handmade or free trade if possible, how expensive that can be...

    It's just unconscionable to me that the idea of teachers (teachers!) are getting pizzas sent to them from other states and countries... while politicians who get to take every other day off as a paid holiday rail at the teachers (teachers!!) for wanting benefits. And don't get me started about the erroneous information floating around about these teachers making six figures. Don't even get me started.


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