Could Proposed N.Y. Triangle Fire Bill Lead to Better Workplace Safety?

Richard Greenwald

By Richard Greenwald

State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, a Democrat and majority whip, recently introduced a bill to establish the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire 100th anniversary commemoration commission” in the state of New York.

The proposed bill calls for a commission of 13 individuals who will be trusted with commemorating the Triangle Fire. These 13 commissioners would organize events, lectures and a state curriculum on the topic — all to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Fire on March 25, 2011.

This is important for a number of reasons, but it was brought home to me today as I read about the loss of more than 25 West Virginia coal miners. Workers still toil in unsafe conditions. We witness a chorus of would’ves and should’ves as we learn about the signs of what could be viewed as impending disaster. But, after the funerals, and an initial investigation, the public forgets the victims, leaving mourning families, friends and communities.

New York Senator Parker’s bill might allow us to not just remember the 146 victims of the fire, but to reconnect their history to ours. Through history, we might be able to enlarge the public discourse on worker safety and health to impact current understandings of American workplaces. I wish Senator Parker well and I hope that the proposed commission lives up to its promise. 146 victims deserve as much.

Richard Greenwald is a labor historian and social critic. . His essays have appeared in In These Times, The Progressive, The Wall Street Journal among others. He is currently writing a book on the rise of freelancing and is co-editing a book on the future of work for The New Press, which features essays from the county’s leading labor scholars and public intellectuals.
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