Triangle Factory Laws
The tragic Triangle Waist Company fire on March 25, 1911 in New York City’s Greenwich Village was a major turning point in American history. One hundred and forty-six workers, mostly teenage Jewish and Italian immigrant girls, perished after the fire broke out on Triangle Company’s sweatshop on the 8th and 9th floors of the building. Many were locked in, a common measure to prevent theft, and the only available exit was a multi-story plummet to the pavement below. Others burned alive or were stampeded to death in the rush to escape.
After the Fire Governor John Alden Dix (D) created the Factory Investigating Commission (FIC) and granted it powers unprecedented in New York’s history. The FIC experienced remarkable success in restricting child labor and granting women workers a reasonable workday. The FIC even tried to institute a minimum wage for New York, but political opponents stifled the policy proposal. Other accomplishments include:
Automatic sprinklers became mandatory in buildings seven stories or higher and factories of 200 or more employees.
Factory doors had to be unlocked during work hours, and they were required to swing outwards.
A building construction code requiring that new buildings include multiple enclosed fireproof stairways and fire escapes.
Employers are required to provide clean drinking water, washrooms, and toilets for their employees.
Women could work no more than a 54 hour work week and nine hours a day.
Children ages 18 and under were banned from work that could injure their health and well-being.
Cry Wolf Quotes
They are not over-intelligent…They formed habits of living that they carried with them to their work, and that made it very difficult indeed to correct them.
[These changes in the fire code would lead to] the wiping out of industry in this state.
But the majority of [buildings] you go in are unkept; they are dirty; they are unclean; their stock is strewed all over the floor. Where they use machinery there are no passageways whatsoever….In a great many cases there is only about one door on that loft you can get in. Goods are piled up in front of the windows, in front of the doors, and you have got to use a battering ram to get into any of them.
There really is a close competition between the canned good industry of this state and that of other states, and that while the canners of other states are operating under general exemptions from the labor law provisions, it will produce a harsh, if not destructive, competition to compel the New York canner to attempt to operate under strict regulation as to the hours of employment.