March 25th, 1911: 146 workers killed in the Triangle Shirt Factory fire in Manhattan, NY. The victims were mostly women and young immigrants whose marginalization forced them into exploitative jobs. Sweatshops like the Triangle Shirt Factory were notorious for underpaying and overworking its workers, and the buildings themselves were crumbling and dirty.
Unfortunately, the conditions and dangers of sweatshops have not changed much since the Triangle Shirt Factory tragedy. On April 24th, 2013, the Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh that contained 5 factories, collapsed, killing 1,135 people and injuring many more. Clean Clothes Campaign, and independent organization that seeks to improve working conditions in the global garment industry, called the Rana Plaza and other sweatshops "deathtrap workplaces." These buildings often contain many health hazards and their shanty building makes them susceptible to collapse. The Rana Plaza was reportedly build on swampy ground, which could have contributed to its instability.
Over a hundred years has passed between the Triangle Shirt Factory fire and the Rana Plaza collapse, and there is no telling how many other sweatshop catastrophes have cost workers their lives. Unfortunately, the conditions have not changed, if anything, with the population surge, they have gotten worse. While we tend to think that we have progressed in human rights since 1911, and while to an extent we have, the collapse of Rana Plaza is a stark reminder that the fashion industry continues to exploit and endanger its workers.
Liz is a senior English major with minors in Spanish and Computer Science. Her research interests, like her areas of academic speciality, lie in the intersections between humanities and science. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and playing with dogs.