Yesterday I heard a short piece on the radio about the 100th anniversary of a terrible fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. As I remember, 160 young women lost their lives in that fire … due in large part to the fact that one of the exit doors was locked. Some of them were on an exterior fire escape which collapsed. Others jumped out the windows trying to escape. It must have been a terrible event.
I wasn’t able to hear the part of the program which dealt with the labor union, the International Ladies Garment Workers union. However, they had a part to play in getting better/safer conditions for the workers who were, for the most part, young immigrant women. But hearing the union’s name brought back some memories.
My mother was a dressmaker in a dress factory in St. Louis. She belonged to the International Ladies Garament Workers Union. I remember hearing a jingle, “Look for the Union label,” which played on the radio. In our house, we looked for the union label. Woe be unto me or my sister if we brought home a garment which didn’t have it!
I haven’t seen that label in many years. It seems very few garments are sewn in the U.S. these days. Instead, they come from Guatemala or China or some other overseas location which can produce the garments for lower costs. Sadly, too often the workers are young women and in a peculiar twist of fate, they are immigrant women from some other Third World country.