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March 24, 2004

Ortiz Remembers Sweatshop Fire Victims

New York State Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (D-51AD), Chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Sweatshops acknowledges that tomorrow is the ninety-third anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire.

According to Ortiz: "It is important that we increase public awareness about sweatshops by reminding everyone of the terrible tragedy that occurred in 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Sweatshops continue to exist today and the rights of workers are still being abused. It is my hope that publicizing this event will help avoid a similar catastrophe and that factory owners will keep their exits unlocked and unobstructed."

On March 25th, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan's Lower East Side, claiming the lives of 146 garment workers. The fire trapped the women workers, who found many of their exit routes either locked or obstructed. Workers on the upper floors of the factory faced no alternative but to jump from ledges and out of windows. Firemen responding to the call had difficulty getting their equipment into position as the victims bodies obstructed the sidewalks. Even when in position, they could offer little help; their ladders were too short to reach the top three floors and their safety nets could not stop the force of the falling women who ripped straight through the meshing. This terrible episode is forever etched in the minds of Americans as a prime example of the horrors possible when workplace safety is neglected and the rights of workers are ignored.

"Ninety-three years have elapsed since the tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, but the pain of those who perished still lingers in our hearts. We need to continue our efforts to eradicate sweatshops from today's society. Then and only then will we be guaranteed that such a disaster will not reoccur" said Assemblyman Ortiz.