This week marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Fire in New York City. Two 14 year old girls were among the 146 victims of the deadliest industrial fire in American history.
The workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factory were mostly immigrants, many of whom jumped to their deaths to escape the blaze. The rest burned to death. Images of their charred bodies on the sidewalks of New York should serve as a reminder of how necessary the regulation of industry is, but the lessons learned from the Triangle disaster are quickly being forgotten, as more and more safety regulations are being rolled back.
Over the past two decades, the conservative movement in America has thrust corporate favoritism upon the public. Proponents claim less regulation creates more jobs. However, the number and quality of jobs in the US has declined since the trend began in the 1980’s under the Reagan Administration, and expanded under the George W. Bush Administration, according to reports from the Congressional Budget Office.
The results of deregulation can be seen in recent disasters, such as the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill, the death of 29 West Virginia miners in April of 2010, and the collapse of the US financial and housing markets in 2008.
Big business has proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to put public and workers safety before profits. Yet, the US Congress has put legislation on the table that will roll back Environmental Protection Agency powers, and OSHA regulations. For the American labor force, the trend toward union busting may only lead to future economic and safety disasters of Titanic proportion.
The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory were charged with first degree manslaughter in 1911, nine months after the fire that needlessly took 146 lives.
Three years after the Wall Street debacle that crushed the US economy, not one banker has set foot inside a prison. And record profits have been recorded on the books of some of the worst corporate mortgage industry manipulators. BP has yet to be formally charged with criminal negligence after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, took 11 lives, and polluted the Gulf of Mexico with more spilled oil than any other company in US history.
If history holds the truth on which we should base the future, then deregulation has already proven that it will take America nowhere, but down the path to disaster.