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The Real Triangle by John Sloan
The Real Triangle by John Sloan
The New York Call, March 27,1911
January 10, 1910
Jewish Daily Forward
The "Triangle" company...With blood this name will be written in the history of the American workers' movement, and with feeling will this history recall the names of the strikers of this shop-of the crusaders.
December 28, 1910
City Hall, New York City, NY
Testimony before the New York State Senate and Assembly Joint Investigating Committee
on Corrupt Practices and Insurance Companies Other Than Life Insurance:
Judge M. Linn Bruce, Counsel
Chief Edward F Croker, NYC Fire Department
Bruce: How high can you successfully combat a fire now?
Croker: Not over eighty-five feet.
Bruce: That would be how many stories of an ordinary building?
Croker: About seven.
Bruce: Is this a serious danger?
Croker: I think if you want to go into the so-called workshops which are along Fifth Avenue and west of Broadway and east of Sixth Avenue, twelve, fourteen or fifteen story buildings they call workshops, you will find it very interesting to see the number of people in one of these buildings with absolutely not one fire protection, with out any means of escape in case of fire.
Saturday at about 4:45 PM
March 25, 1911
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

In 1935, Mary Heaton Vorse recalled that terrible day:

"They're burning!" "They're jumping out of the windows!"

Screams of sheer horror came over the wires. I called police headquarters and found out that a shirtwaist factory just off Washington Square was on fire. The girls were trapped, the doors having been locked to prevent their going out for a breath of air. I hurried over to the Square, drawn by the contagion of disaster. I could not get very near; fire lines were drawn. People ahead of me were crying:

"Another's jumped! Another's jumped, all on fire!"

Like burning torches, girls jumped into the street....

March 29, 1911
Jewish Daily Forward

This poem by Morris Rosenfeld "Poet Laureate of the slum and the sweatshop," was printed down the left side of the entire first page:

Now let us light the holy candles
And mark the sorrow
Of Jewish masses in darkness and poverty.
This is our funeral,
These our graves,
Our children,
The beautiful, beautiful flowers destroyed,
Our lovely ones burned,
Their ashes buried under a mountain of caskets.

There will come a time
When your time will end, you golden princes.
Meanwhile,
Let this haunt your consciences:
Let the burning building, our daughters in flame
Be the nightmare that destroys your sleep,
The poison that embitters your lives,
The horror that kills your joy.
And in the midst of celebrations for your children,
May you be struck blind with fear over the
Memory of this red avalanche
Until time erases you.

-translated from the original Yiddish
Entire poem here.

Sunday April 2, 1911
Metropolitan Opera House
New York City, NY

Mary Heaton Vorse remembered the meeting as a mass funeral:

A mass funeral was given for the victims. New York labor filled the Opera House from top to bottom, everyone dressed in mourning for their murdered fellow workers. A tiny girl with flaming red hair, Rose Schneiderman, made the unforgettable funeral speech.

The immigrant workers from the Lower East Side filled the galleries while the wealthy reformers decked out in their high hats, furs, and feathers took their seats in the orchestra, and boxes. The working people were skeptical of any promised civic-reform. Such promises, they knew, were seldom kept. Tensions between the two groups mounted as the meeting progressed and threatened to disrupt the meeting altogether.

Frances Perkins, who was sitting near Rose, described her as a pretty little (4'6") girl with fiery red hair, and blazing eyes, and noticed that she was trembling as she waited to speak. Rose was there as a speaker for the Women's Trade Union League. When she began to speak the hall grew silent. Her voice was low and quiet, but her words were heard in the hall, printed in the press and sent out all across the nation:  

I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies, if I were to come here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public—and we have found you wanting.
Rose Schneiderman, 1910
Rose Schneiderman, 1910
Source Credit: Kheel Center
The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today: the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch fire.

This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job, it matters little if 140-odd are burned to death.

We have tried you, citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.

Public officials have only words of warning for us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back when we rise—back into the conditions that make life unbearable.

I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working-class movement.

Wednesday, April 5, 1911
One hundred thousand mourners
Followed those sad biers.
The streets were filled with people
Weeping bitter tears.

  -Ruth Rubin

The day of the mass funeral for the seven unidentified victims of the Triangle Fire was described by the World as a day when "the skies wept [and] rain, ever and again descended in a drenching downpour." The American fretted:

There was something ominous about the gathering, it was so silent and it was to march through a section of the East Side-the thickly populated foreign districts-where emotions are poignant and demonstrative. The police were plainly worried.
The working people marched from the East Side in silence, dressed in mourning, and carrying their Union banners draped in black. The police need not have worried; the marchers provided their own parade marshals from the Central Federated Union, the Socialist Party, the Bonnaz Embroidery Workers' Union, and the Women's Trade Union League.

The American continued:

It was not until the marchers reached Washington Square, and came in sight of the Asch building [the Triangle factory building] that the women gave vent to their sorrow.

It was one long-drawn-out , heart-piercing cry, the mingling of thousands of voices, a sort of human thunder in the elemental storm-a cry that was, perhaps, the most impressive expression of human grief ever heard in this city.

The Twenty-Third Street Ferry took eight hearses across the waters to Brooklyn. The unidentified victims of the Triangle Factory Fire were buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. There were seven graves for the caskets numbered 46, 50, 61, 95, 103, 115, and 127. An eighth grave was for the unnumbered casket containing dismembered body fragments found after the fire and never claimed.

The Aid-Campaign

Many of the grief stricken families were also left without a breadwinner. The City reached out with a massive relief effort. Being one of the few Yiddish speakers in the WTUL, Rose was able to lead relief teams into the East Side tenements. She later remembered:

We went to the East Side to look for our people. Our workers in the Women's Trade Union League took the volunteers from the Red Cross and together we went to find those who, in this moment of great sorrow, had become oblivious to their own needs.

We found them.

You could find them by the flowers of mourning nailed to the doors of tenements. You could find them by the wailing in the streets of relatives and friends gathered for the funerals. But sometimes you climbed floor after floor up an old tenement, went down the long, dark hall, knocked on the door and after it was opened found them sitting there-a father and his children or an old mother who had lost her daughter-sitting there silent, crushed.

June 30, 1911
Albany, NY

Meetings and resolutions and committees of civic-reformers did produce results for the working women and girls of New York, for on this day the State Legislature created the New York Factory Investigating Commission. There were nine members, among them Robert F. Wagner, Sr, Alfred E. Smith, labor leader Samuel Gompers, and Mary Dreier, President of Women's Trade Union League. Frances Perkins and Rose Schneiderman were among the corps of inspectors. By the end of 1914, the Commission had produced 36 new laws, marking the beginning of the "golden era in remedial factory legislation."

March 25, 1961
Washington Place and Greene Street
New York City, NY

As the people of New York City gathered for the Fifty Year Memorial to honor the workers who lost their lives in the Triangle Fire, also on their minds were the twenty-five workers who had died in the Monarch Garment Factory fire just three years earlier. Meanwhile, on the desk of Governor Nelson Rockefeller lay a bill which favored the factory owners and landlords of the City with yet more time to comply with fire and safety regulations.

David Dubinsky, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, gave a speech opposing the delay:

Yes, they need more time. The three years since Monarch is not enough time. The fifty years since Triangle is not enough time,-and the lives that have been lost, the lives of garment workers and firemen, are not enough lives.
We say enough! We say no more Triangles or Monarchs! We say that the toll of life taken by industrial slums must end just as we are wiping out the human cost of residential slums. And we say that it is an outrage in this state that has pioneered so much labor legislation, to have its Industrial Commissioner take a stand that increases rather than cuts down the danger in the shop.
We want a fitting memorial to the martyrs we honor today. No better one can be found than to increase the respect for and the safety of workers. I call on each and every one of you to write today to Governor Rockefeller and to demand that he veto the Albert-Folmer bill. Write to him in Albany, New York. In memory of those who have already been sacrificed to greed - write.
Monday 27 November 2000
The Guardian
Arshad Mahmud in Dhaka
The death of about 50 workers - mainly women and children - in a Bangladesh garment factory on Saturday has refocused attention on the poor working conditions in the industry...
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's failure to protect the 1.2m workers, mostly women, who form the backbone of the industry, is causing growing anger.
About 300 have died since 1990, mainly in fires. People are asking how many more must die before something is done...
Few factories have an alarm system and the fire extinguishers rarely work. Staircases are invariably narrow, gates remain locked during working hours, and most factories lack emergency exits.
As a result, in an emergency - especially a fire - the workers often find themselves trapped, leading them to join potentially fatal stampedes or jump from the windows.
Nov 30, 2012
ANI
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Calling for better working conditions in the garment industry, protesters in Bangladesh took to the streets of Dhaka after 111 people perished in a factory fire last Saturday. Police watched from a distance as the protesters wearing Muslim white death robes lay down on the pavement in front of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BMGEA). The protest was organised by a group called "Magic Movement".
The brave young woman speaking out at this protest is Sabhnaz Rashid Diya:
This incident has happened before, there were fires before, there were no reports. No proper jurisdiction,  no proper um.. there was no law executed through the whole process and the families were not compensated enough. And this has been happening for year after year.
YouTube Video of Protest
https://www.youtube.com/...
Magic Movement on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/...
STAND TOGETHER TO RESIST!
The girls and women by their meetings and discussions come to understand and sympathize with each other, and more and more easily they act together. So we must stand together to resist, for we will get what we can take - just that and no more.
     -Rose Schneiderman, 1905
Sources:

Jewish Daily Forward
April 3, 1911: "Metropolitan Opera House Packed With Protest Meeting About the Fire
Jacob Schiff and Other Wealthy Individuals Speak — a Few Sharp Comments by a Representative of the Women’s Trade Union League" (translation)

The New York Times (pdf)
April 3, 1911: "Mass Meeting Calls for New Fire Laws"

A Footnote to Folly by Mary Heaton Vorse
NY, 1935

Speech at Memorial Meeting
  by David Dubinsky, ILGWU President
Washington Place & Greene Street
New York City, NY, March 25, 1961

The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein
NY, 1962

Women and the American Labor Movement,
From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I

 by Philip S. Foner
NY, 1979

Reading American Art by Marianne Doezema
p. 319
Yale U. Press, 1998

Triangle by David Von Drehle
NY, 2003

For Further Study

The Diary Of a Shirtwaist Striker by Teresa S. Malkiel
-a novel written in 1910 about the Uprising of the 20,00
I cannot recommend it enough! Good for adults and older children.
With introductory essay by Francoise Basch
NY, 1990

There are many online sources available, this is my favorite:
http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/...

All for One by Rose Schneiderman & Lucy Goldthwaite
NY, 1967

Madam Secretary, Frances Perkins by Elisabeth P Myers
MY, 1972

And this excellent photo diary by Kossack, Eddie C
On the 100th Triangle Memorial
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition
http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/

International Solidarity Action Resources

International Labor Rights Forum
http://www.laborrights.org/...

International Labor Organization
http://www.ilo.org/...

Worker Rights Consortium
http://www.workersrights.org/

Global March Against Child Labor
http://globalmarch.org/...

International Trade Union Confederation/Child and Forced Labor
http://www.ituc-csi.org/...

Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights
http://www.globallabourrights.org/

Child Labor Public Education Project
-no longer active, but good source for more links.
http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/...

This diary is dedicated
To the men, women, and children who lost their lives while trying to make a living
Sewing the garments that clothe the world.
May we continue to fight for social and economic justice
That we might yet make sweet their resting place.
Solidarity,
JayRaye

Mayn Rue-Platz

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by WE NEVER FORGET, Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, Income Inequality Kos, History for Kossacks, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  sorry i have no time (9+ / 0-)

    to be hanging out here.

    we really need to switch to sunday mornings because now that my schedule includes monday morning teaching, sunday evenings are way too busy.

    see you guys in a week or so after grades go in.

    Donate to Occupy Wall Street here: http://nycga.cc/donate/

    by BlueDragon on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:05:46 PM PST

  •  Powerful, moving and very well done! (12+ / 0-)

    The Triangle fire was a tragic incident that gave important impetus to the labor movement. Unfortunately much of that impetus is not with us in the dawn of the 21st C. I think that a very important lesson here is that accomplishing improvements in the working conditions for women and men in a particular time and place is never a permanent fix. As we have seen, so many of the gains of the labor movement are being steadily chiseled away. Another important understanding from the timeline that is laid out here is that any real security for workers must be accomplished on an international basis. Capitalist will always respond to national labor reform by moving the jobs to another country with poorer and more desperate workers.

     

    •  Thank You, Richard. (5+ / 0-)

      And Amen!

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:20:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We also need a movement similar (7+ / 0-)

      to the South Africa divestment movement.

      Aim for laws that forbid the import of any products unless manufactures can prove that they were made under conditions of labor that would meet US labor standards and health and safety standards, child labor laws.

      A company like Walmart should not be able to say "I didn't know..." They should have to prove it up front before production begins.

      Also, a  loud noisy campaign such as "know how and where your clothes are made."

      So far we have very little going on in that area of protest.

      We need to be making a lot of noise on this issue. There are groups active, but they are quiet and too polite.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:31:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed completely that we need to fight (4+ / 0-)

        this on an international level; prevention of goods being imported if produced under unsafe conditions and using child labour and grossly exploitative would be something that can be done with sufficient pressure. It would also be appropriate to fit EC laws as well, so it could cover the whole advanced capitalist world. I know that several labor unions and groups advocating for labor have raised this; it would also protect workers from the advanced capitalist world as well as those in the periphery and emergent economies who have been fighting to protect (the former) and further  (the latter) working legislation. I think that this is an important issue that can be worked on across countries, between unions internationally and across political positions from the centre-left to the hard left.

        Those with political and economic power have been working to prevent legislation and its enforcement in the periphery and in emergent economies and have been trying to over-turn our protections in the advanced capitalist world as necessary for international competition (another way to say destroy wages and living standards and increasing profits); we need to fight them internationally or they will just keep moving from one country to the next. A law like that suggested by JayRaye would help those on the ground tremendously and undermine the ability of multinational corps to avoid labour legislation!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:47:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Bangladesh is (6+ / 0-)

          pretty close to the end of the line in moving work to ever poorer countries. Workers in China have begun to organize and make demands. If the global shell game gets caught in a closed loop, there may be possibilities.

          •  I was at a meeting (6+ / 0-)

            where a woman that works in Nicaragua in the export-oriented garment centre spoke. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in North America and they keep threatening workers where that insisted on bringing in a doctor that specialised in occupational health injuries (these women work 11.5 hours a day and suffer literally crippling workplace damage); they keep threatening to move to Guatemala and they produce things for Haines and other north american companies. This is not only a problem in asia, it is a general problem where MNCs trying to escape paying decent wages and having to follow labour law go to countries where labour law has been undeveloped and where unions are weak due to local capitalist and ruling class power and foreign intervention. In Pakistan, the fire safety laws exist but they are never enforced due to bribery and corruption and the power of MNCs.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:15:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, there are no permanent fixes. (4+ / 0-)

      It's not entropy that is the culprit; it is human beings who are clever, but insensitive to their own kind. They exploit, perhaps because it is all they know. They take because they cannot make.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:36:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  there are permanent fixes ... (3+ / 0-)

        but those require getting rid of a system based upon exploitation and wealth and income inequality and constant need for growth to keep the rate of profits up. There are reforms also that can be undertaken, I would argue that there are fixes that are both revolutionary and reformist that can deal with this type of exploitation and denial of human rights, but that takes a long-term fightback and building of workers movements; there are no easy fixes, but there are permanent ones.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:09:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  ACM schedule (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, annieli, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    next Sunday: Richard Lyon
    23rd: Justina
    30th: Annieli

    January 2013

    6th:
    Geminijen (?)
    13th: UnaSpenser and NY Brit Expat
    20th:
    27th:

    February

    3rd:
    10th:
    17th:
    24th:

    Hi fellow travellers: we are fixed until the new years. However, we will need your help in keeping the series going. If you can do a piece, please reply here, or send ny brit expat a personal message on dkos or send an email to our group account at: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:19:37 PM PST

  •  This is such a beautiful piece JayRaye! (9+ / 0-)

    I wanted to thank you for writing it for the AC meetup!

    Not only a wonderful piece on labor history but the drawing of the links from the past to the present and the fact that so much of the victories that we thought we had won have not only never applied to those in the capitalist periphery and emergent economies. The fact that MNCs moved there to avoid actually having to follow the law and that these laws (if they exist in Pakistan and Bangladesh) are never enforced. The battle is the same for underpaid workers in Walmart in the US and Canada and those that are paid to supply the goods sold there, under-paid, over-exploited, and everyone's rights undermined. You did an amazing job on an incredibly important question and the issue of international solidarity has always been compelling, but we need to talk about what it means for real, it is so much more than 2 words!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:27:07 PM PST

    •  Thank you, NY brit expat! (5+ / 0-)

      yes we need to put international solidarity into action.

      Worker to worker visits, this takes money, of course, but nothing beats face to face visits. The unions could be doing more of this. But since they do precious little of it, we should form a group that does more of it. Lots more.

      In this latest murder of our fellow workers, there should have been stories on the front page of every US paper of labor leaders and rank and file leaders attending the funerals in Bangladesh.

      Then they should have come home and traveled the country. But complaining about what they aren't doing would take all night and into tomorrow.

      We need to stop looking to them for action, and just start doing what needs to be done. What we need is an International Solidarity Action Network of some sort with emphasis on action.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:41:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Diary cross-posted (6+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:28:35 PM PST

  •  The system grinds on. There is little change. (6+ / 0-)

    The plutocracy uses human fuel to stoke its profit machines.  War, factories, fast food places, big boxes.These are the places where money is made.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:37:33 PM PST

  •  Everyday low prices (7+ / 0-)

    They suffer, they die. Out of sight, out of mind.    The Walmarts and Apple computers can't afford to let the truth intrude on their carefully constructed fantasy.   A fantasy we willingly buy into.  Too much money at stake.  

    What's a human life worth?  Nothing if it does not create shareholder value.  

    •  exactly the problem ... think of how little (5+ / 0-)

      the payment to the survivors and the families of victims of Bhopal was and that will tell you the value of a human life. It is the fantasy that we willingly buy into that we can fight and that will require getting information out and fighting alongside these people that are working in these factories depending on what they tell us that they need to protect themselves.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:18:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I live near Lowell and Lawrence Mass. (3+ / 0-)

        Think "Bread and Roses".   After the war the mills moved from Massachusetts to places like North Carolina.  From there they moved to Pakistan and Bangladesh.  All for the same reasons.   The problem was never solved, it simply moved to a less troublesome location.  

        How do you fight a global entity with powers that rival those of many nation states.  How do you do it without harming those you seek to protect.  It will not be easy, but it must be done.  

        As for our fantasy, it is by definition unsustainable.  Sooner or later things will come full circle.

      •  yes, exactly, getting the word out is most (4+ / 0-)

        important.

        Also pressure on big chain stores.

        Better to have group pressure, of course, but anyone can ask to talk to a store manager at any time.

        Tomorrow, I think I'll go over to the nearby Cosco and ask to talk with the manager.

        Ask him/her if they know where the clothing is made that they sell and under what sort of conditions.

        We should all be asking that question and all of the time.

        But the 2nd point you made was important also. We should find out from the workers those countries with such awful conditions what we can do to help. For that we need face to face meetings. Visits, delegations, but delegations of working people, who can tell us first hand what kind of support they need.

        In Bangladesh, it's very dangerous for union organizers. Yet we hear very little outcry from our union leaders on the murder of their union leaders.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

        by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:39:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The other woman that spoke at that meeting (4+ / 0-)

          that I mentioned above (which was organised by War on Want) was a farm worker in the wine industry in South Africa who really liked the idea of a boycott just as you suggested above, a lot of South African wine is sold in the UK, we can bring pressure that will help if that will help. She was thrilled at the idea. Our job is to support them in solidarity, I strongly believe in worker self-organisation, it is not our role to lead them and tell them what to do, that is their job to figure out how we can properly offer solidarity and to help build links (that was the purpose of the tour). I wish you had been there, it was inspiring to see the fight on a local level and to be able to ask those that are participating how we can help in solidarity.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:02:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  As labor has gone international reducing the power (5+ / 0-)

        of labor unions to be able to stop the continued downward trend in workers conditions and wages, we have to seriously look at how the dynamics of of labor have been changing and why there is not a dynamic labor movement to fight these changes.  While there is the beginning of a movement to fight Walmart in the traditional ways, there are also plenty of places in the world where low paid workers are enamoured at being able to buy mass products at very low prices --this is true even in the United States as unions are being dismantled and the low wage service sector grows.  I am not saying this to be negative, but we have to look at what are the best ways to fight for the real wages and work conditons of workers today.  Don't know if legal government constructs like living wage campaigns (increasing minium wage) or worker managed cooperatives or traditional union struggles like that against Walmart or boycotts are the best way to go (or all of the above), but the sweatshops seem to go on and on and I know very few people who have low wages who have not bought at Target or Walmart. Maybe that's still a good place to start --refuse to buy at any of these stores that are involved in the race to the bottom.  But can we do it?  How many people do you know that haven't bought cheap goods from China, shopped at Target, etc.  We have to get real about the dynamics happening in the global market and what is the most realisitic way to stop it on a day to day basis.  And how each of us can help in this struggle and not just view the struggle as a feel good movie on TV.  

  •  Over 100 years have passed (8+ / 0-)

    and Rose Schneiderman's words resonate today. Indeed, the lives of the workers are so cheap, and profit is so sacred.

    Thanks JayRaye. We have some difficult times ahead.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:10:46 PM PST

    •  Thank you, slatsg (4+ / 0-)

      Yes, indeed, very difficult.

      I think resistance is the stage we are in right now.

      Stand and resist.

      While we work to rebuild our movement. We need to stop waiting for our "leaders" and seize the initiative for ourselves the best we can.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:15:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for a really great piece -resistance and (3+ / 0-)

        building working class solidarity are critical.  I say building instead of rebuilding because we have to redefine the working class - its not just the old union movement which (inspite of Triangle which I actively as a conscious woman worker commemorate every year). Currently I'm going with the 99% concept although I feel a little uneasy that it sort of obliterates the concept of working class struggle as defined by Marx.  Right now, however, I think it comes closest to bridging the gap between middle class (or recently middle class workers) and the working poor in both the formal and informal sector and the unemployed, as well as the divide between national and international (immigrant and refugee workers) which seems to have become the biggest divides in the working class.

        •  Thank you, Geminijen, (3+ / 0-)

          When I speak of rebuilding our movement, I'm speaking specifically as a unionist.

          As a Socialist, I too have some problems with the Occupy movement.

          But on the other hand, Occupy did fit the definition to a T of a movement that did not waiting for leaders but went ahead and seized the initiative.

          Parts of the old union movement did organize the poorest the poor: the IWW, ILGWU, the UMWA, the Sharecroppers Union, UFW. The union movement has always been more than just the skilled trades.

          And we need to be that again. Unions brot many workers into the middle class, and many of them forgot that they were still workers. Many are finding out just how fast they can cease to be middle class.

          I still believe in a rebirth of the labor movement. I think it is happening right before our eyes.

          But where I agree with you, is that we need other types of movements as well to, as you say, bridge the gap.

          New and creative tactics, like Occupy are great, in my opinion, even if they don't fit neatly into Marxist analysis.
          I also like the idea of 99%, it's an easy idea to get across. It's simple which is a good place to start a conversation about class when talking with a fellow worker.

          WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

          by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:28:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great Diary (6+ / 0-)

    I appreciate the labor history as well.

    I think one interesting point is the way in which the political economy of Walmart, which depends on continuously beating down wages and worker self-esteem everywhere in the world that it operates, creates poverty among its consumers as well by virtue of its vertically-chained market power, i.e., by driving down the wages of its workers (including the workers of its subcontractors) Walmart is able to sell the basic necessaries of modern American life for less--thereby reducing the value of the reproduction of the labor power of its mostly working class consumers.  At the same time, on the side of social relations, this has the potential to create a false mentality of competition in the consciousness of poor Walmart consumers against poor Walmart workers.

    That's another reason the Walmart strikes and ongoing labor actions are so important: it is critical that the similar objective class positions of Walmart workers and Walmart consumers be recognized in the workers' communications and political strategies.

    "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:52:31 PM PST

    •  the way that walmart organised the business (7+ / 0-)

      where they went for vertically integrated control over production and distribution on the basis of lowering wages and undermining work conditions wherever they could has been incredibly effective in lowering the value of labour power across the whole of production and distribution not only in their companies but it has reverberated across the whole of the working class where they have put their filthy businesses.  However, they have left themselves very vulnerable to concerted international actions across countries ... which those fighting for the rights of labour may be able to use against them.

      Undermining the divide and rule of false competition between workers internationally is essential if labour can actually start an effective fight-back.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:07:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes and workers meeting face to face across (5+ / 0-)

        borders is what we will need to build solidarity all along the Walmart line from production (in many different countries)  to transportation to warehouse to sales.

        One area where Walmart was really smart was in transportation. They built their own fleet of highly paid truck drivers. Keeps the Teamsters out and puts the truckers well above the other workers. Getting them to join the fight won't be easy.

        Clearly there is much work to be done.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

        by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:20:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  THanks Ex Pat for a real analysis of the problem (3+ / 0-)

        instead of generalized cries of Fight the Power! Don't get me wrong, I certainly do that dance too -- just feeling frustrated at not getting the results we need.  We've had global campaigns against Coke and now Walmart which most workers do not seem to be aware of.
         I think it is important that we recognize the dual nature of the working class -one part of which tends to define itself as "middle class", separating itself from the rest of the working class, so we not only have to look at the divide between the national and international labor market, but between the middle class bought off labor bureaucracy and the unorganized working poor. We have to  
        think of the working class in general (importance of anti-austerity campaigns) not just specific struggles against specific companies.
        I think governmental campaigns like Living Wage, regulations that tax companies fleeing from one country to another with their profits, strong political campaigns against free trade (Obama's baby) and efforts to  "think globally" (work on increasing international solidarity like stopping the anti-immigrant campaigns) while working locally (regionalizing as much of the production as possible through worker control and ownership) are all important.
        Would love to hear specifics from other people.

    •  Yes, poverty all along the line is what they aim (5+ / 0-)

      for, and also that we should accept that this is all that we are worth. That part I agree with.

      Walmart workers organizing has the potential to be the best thing that has happened to the Labor Movement since the CIO. Very important.

      But I don't really see tension between Walmart workers and Walmart consumers.

      They are pretty much one and the same. And Walmart treats both the same: like shit.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:10:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tension (4+ / 0-)

        My point was the potential that the political economy of Walmart presents, because it "has the potential to create a false mentality of competition in the consciousness of poor Walmart consumers against poor Walmart workers."

        The idea being, of course, that poor Walmart consumers could be persuaded (and some of them already are) that organizing efforts at Walmart will cause prices at Walmart to go up, which Walmart consumers cannot afford. In fact, this is exactly what mainstream economics posits as the normal situation: a conflict of economic interests between workers and consumers.

        Of course, mainstream economics has no class analysis to speak of, so it can speak of people only, or at least mostly, in terms of their participation in ephemeral market transactions: in the morning I'm a worker when I head off to earn a living, but in the evening I'm a consumer when I eat at a restaurant.

        In fact, I can think of one friend who is herself a wage worker who is critical of the Walmart workers for exactly these reasons, so it is happening. It's our job to push the class analysis over the worker-consumer construct.

        Great Diary.

        "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

        by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:24:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes the ruling class has always tried to divide us (4+ / 0-)

          in just that way.

          My point is this: we now have a large portion of the working class who is paid so little that Walmart is the only place where they can afford to shop. And these low wage workers who are more or less forced to consume Walmart crap also work for Walmart.

          It's actually the class of workers who are doing alright (for now) who mostly get into that selfish consumer mode, ie "I want my cheap crap, too bad if you have go hungry or die in fire so I can have my low prices."

          Sadly, some of them are union members. My former union brothers in the IUOE for example who thot nobody but them worked hard and deserved good pay. I can see them griping about higher prices, definitely.

          Yes, we have a lot of work to do. No doubt about it.

          WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

          by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:43:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Walmart workers are Walmart consumers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, tardis10, bigjacbigjacbigjac
  •  A question: (3+ / 0-)

    Is there a memorial at the location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire?

     It was at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place in NYC. I was there today, but didn't see anything (I was almost not particularly looking for it).  There really should be a memorial at that site for the 146 people who died that day.

  •  Heading out for a nice long late night walk with (3+ / 0-)

    my canine comrades.

    And then to bed.

    I want to thank expat for talking me into writing this diary, a topic which has been much on mind lately.

    Also thanks to everyone who participated! Great conversation, some good ideas, hopefully leading to more action on behalf of our super-exploited fellow workers whose lives are so much at risk as every last dime of profit is wrong out of them.

    Solidarity,
    JayRaye

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

    by JayRaye on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 07:16:34 PM PST

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