100 years later, has anything changed?

Separated by 100 years, two sweatshop fires took a combined 270 lives. The first fire occurred in 1911 at the Triangle Waste Company’s factory in Manhattan. The second was in Bangladesh last November.  You would think 100 years would be enough time to set in place some basic safety laws to prevent these horrendous working conditions that have taken hundreds of lives and see that they are carried out, but has anything really changed?

The Triangle Waste Company fire occurred on March 25, 1911. The fire killed 146 people, mostly women and some as young as 14 years old. Many of the workers were immigrants who had recently come to the United States in search of a better life. That night when the flames broke out, many of the workers chose to jump out the windows rather than burn in the fires. The owners of the building tried to defend themselves by declaring that the building was fireproof, but the workers fought back saying that when the fire broke out the exit doors were locked, therefore leaving them with no way to escape. In court, it was decided that the two owners, Harris and Blanck, were unaware of the locked exits. The victims chose to not give up and a few years later, after numerous civil suits, the owners settled out of court by paying $75 for each life that was lost.

The Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh occurred on November 24-25, 2012. The fire took the lives of at least 124 individuals. Similar to the fire in Manhattan, many of the workers were forced to jump from the windows because the lower levels were already engulfed in flames. One of the causes of deaths was the lack of exits for the workers to escape from once the fire broke out. The owner of this sweatshop also denied the notion of unsafe working conditions, but the company website clearly stated the conditions to be high-risk. The company offered compensation of $1,200 to each of the deceased worker’s families.

These are not the only tragic fires that have occurred in unsafe working conditions and unfortunately they probably won’t be the last we hear of either. The similarities between these two fires are scary; both owners claimed to have safe working conditions, both incidents had cited causes related to exits, and both had small monetary compensation for their great losses, among other things.

There are so many ways in which our world has grown, from technological advances to societal advances, yet basic precautions to ensure the safety and lives of individuals are being neglected. The importance of freedom of speech, as many involved in the Manhattan Fire learned, is undeniable. It is important for anyone who is a situation like these to make sure their voice is heard so that these innocent lives will not be lost.

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    1. Sweatshops in America | PutItInFocus
    2. Final Thoughts | PutItInFocus

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