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Posts Tagged ‘women in clothing manufacturing’

At 4:40 pm on Saturday, March 25, 1911 a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed 500 mostly immigrant woman and children to make blouses, or what were called “shirtwaists” back then. The company rented the top three floors of the ten story Asch Building located in Greenwich Village, NYC. The staff worked 52 hours a week for approximately $7 to $12.

Shirtwaists buttoned down the back and usually had a high collar. They were worn with long gored skirts and a belt. Sometimes women sported a men’s style tie or a cameo at the neck.

On that spring afternoon, a fire started on the 8th floor in the scrap bin underneath one of the cutter’s tables, perhaps from a lit match, a cigarette or something else, no one knows. Because of the vast amount of piled fabric pieces (two month’s worth), the fire spread quickly. Workers on the 10th floor were able to escape onto the roof, but others were trapped due to locked doors, flames, and a single faulty fire escape that collapsed. Many workers jumped from windows; others jumped down the elevator shaft after it quit working from the intense heat.

That day, 23 men and 123 women and young girls lost their lives.

The shock and horror of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire prompted changes in factory regulations.

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pants-producers

Know who made your clothes. Photo: Fashion Revolution

I feel bad that my whole family ended up working in the garments factories … It wasn’t supposed to end up like this. I’ve been working in garments for eight years. I work on the machines. I started when I was 11 or 12. It was difficult. I really struggled to handle the workload … There are not any other jobs for girls like us. We aren’t educated so how could we get a decent job? Without the garments factories we’d have nothing. Once you start working in garments, you’re trapped. It’s no different to being in a prison

– A young woman garment worker. (From the documentary UDITA.)

This woman and her two sisters live in Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) and work at the same factory. All three have young children and husbands who walked out on them. They share one room with their children, parents, and a brother. They get MAYBE one day off a week and worry whether they’ll even get paid.

In 2013 the minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh was $38 a month as reported in the New York Times. Workers most often live in poverty. They are not paid overtime and sometimes they’re not paid at all. No paid sick time, vacations, or a Labor Day holiday! Any talk of unions can result in intimidation and firing.

Something to think about this Labor Day holiday.

Click here to watch UDITA and learn more about the working and living conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh.

 

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