Last year, Albert Marrin published Flesh and Blood So Cheap, a history of the Triangle Factory Fire that killed over one hundred people in New York in 1911. Most of the dead were young Italian and Russian-Jewish seamstresses who had recently immigrated to the U.S. In his conclusion, Marrin appends a warning. He urges readers to attend to the unjust and dangerous working conditions that persist in other countries that manufacture clothes for U.S. consumers. Reporting on a 2010 factory fire near Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed twenty-one workers, Marrin concludes
If the Bangladeshi experience teaches anything, it is that short memories and greed are a deadly mixture. When things are going well, we are likely to forget the past. Short memories are dangerous, because they allow greed to take control. The result is disaster. Thus, eternal vigilance truly is the price of liberty and safety. (163)
Tragically, the world has not been vigilant. This week, unsafe working conditions and unscrupulous management allowed a fire to kill over one hundred women making clothes for U.S. consumers in Dhaka, Bangladesh just two years after the 2010 fire.
Click on any of these links to read more about the story. This New York Times piece reports the details of the fire, while the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal articles analyze the significance of this fire for U.S. corporations who outsource their labor.
Can teaching Marrin’s history help us prevent such tragedies in the future?