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Secretary Su Reflects on Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Secretary Su Reflects on Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 27, 2024
"We are fighting to enforce labor laws and uphold safety standards," said Su.

On the 113th  anniversay of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire,  Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su recalled the lives lost as well as the legacy of former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, who witnessed the fire in downtown New York City. 

Writing an op-ed she also referenced the work of President Biden’s administration to enforce labor laws, uphold safety standards and empower workers to speak up, and the Acting Secretary’s experience in advocating for today’s immigrant workers in the garment industry.

The article includes the following excerpts: 

  • “This Women’s History Month, I’m reflecting on Frances Perkins’ legacy and how she turned the unheard voices of those immigrant women into a call to action. Frances became a driving force behind programs that generations of Americans have relied on for economic security and dignity, including a nationwide minimum wage, health and safety regulations, restrictions on child labor and more.”
  • “I saw this early in my career. In 1995, 72 Thai garment workers were being forced to work behind barbed wire and under armed guard in a suburb of Los Angeles called El Monte. These workers, who were overwhelmingly women, were trafficked to the United States. They had been lured by the promise of the American dream, only to find themselves confronting injustice, just as the Triangle factory workers had decades earlier.”
  • “To create change, it has taken workers using their voices to fight for their basic rights. I’ve asked my team at the Department of Labor to use every tool we have to support and empower workers in that fight. For example, earlier this year, we recovered more than $1 million for 165 workers whose employer had denied them overtime wages and then tried to conceal the wage theft. To date, this is the Department’s largest settlement ever for California garment workers.”
  • “The Department of Labor and the Biden-Harris administration will continue to answer that call — the call of the women who came before us — with vigilance. We are fighting to enforce labor laws, uphold safety standards, and empower workers to speak up, speak out, and organize. As we remember those who lost their lives in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, we reaffirm that we cannot rest until that work is done.”

Note: See EHS Slideshow on the Fire 

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