Essay: Sweatshops

A shop or factory in which employees work for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions,’ is the definition of a Sweatshop in the Webster Dictionary. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company located in Manhattan was the true definition of a sweatshop. Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the owners of the factory, employed young immigrant women who worked in overcrowded spaces of lines of sewing machines. On a daily basis, young teenaged girls, who merely spoke English, were put through 12 hour days for less than three dollars a day. The owners of the factory were notoriously known for the cashing in on fire insurance money, which they had collected after purposely burning down their factory. Neither one of the owners were concerned with the necessary safety measurements in case of a fire in the factory, which caused an uproar and tragedy. On March 25th, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company burned down, killing 145 of their workers. However, this tragedy was not planned and intentionally caused by the owners. Nevertheless, the neglected safety features like having only one out of four working elevators, and two stairways of which one was locked to avoid stealing, were the reason for the death of so many people. Many of them were burned alive or died from jumping out of the window of the 8th floor.
This tragedy troubled the community to such a degree that it brought together enough disapproval for government intervention. New laws concerning the state labor code marked the following three years after this tragedy. There were a total of 36 laws, which were set into motion to improve the sanitary conditions and fire safety. Moreover, child labor laws and a minimum wage codes were put into place. New laws were improved over time and current codes were further advanced. For example, in 1933, Congress passed the National Industry Recovery Act (NRA) at the demand of a new inducted President, Franklin Roosevelt. This Act pursued to provide codes to fix wages and working hours. Despite all the new laws and codes, the public was driven to further underwrite the safety of workers by forming unions. Even though the government played a big role in putting all these new laws and codes into place, the influence of a workers union demanding better conditions is what really made it happen. The reason why the Triangle Sweatshirt tragedy is still important to this day, is because it finally opened the country’s eyes to deprived working conditions in factories such as in the Triangle Sweatshirt Company and set in motion a remarkable period of labor improvements.
Nevertheless, safety issues are not just a problem of the past. Almost every year disasters happen all over the world, which in experts opinions, could have been avoided with the right safety precautions. For example, the factory collapse in Bangladesh cost over 1000 lives. There were 4 legitimate reasons for the collapse of the building. Firstly, the building was built without authorization on a pond. Secondly, it was converted from commercial use to industrial use and three floors were added when compared to the original permit. Lastly, the use of substandard construction material enabled the collapse due to an overload of the building structure, which was aggravated by vibrations from the generators. These are devastating examples of people losing their lives because companies put their revenue and profits over a human’s lives.
The fact that the governments aren’t putting enough emphasis on the safety requirements in factories contributes to even more to tragedies like these. Since neither the companies, nor the government are reliable in their practices of obeying laws regarding the safety of working conditions and safety precautions it is up to the people to help regulate. Through pressure placed on the government and strategically exercising our rights as consumers and shareholders we can help ensure that the right rules are in place and that companies abide by them.

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