From the Fire: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
by Kate Moos, executive producer
The 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is being marked this month. An article in the The Jewish Daily Forward included this video of a gripping oratorio by Elizabeth Swados commemorating the tragedy, a riveting and emblematic event in early 20th-century American life.
“I want them to feel the humanity of the women who were involved and to experience the injustice of that kind of loss of life, and to understand that you really shouldn’t turn your head away from these kinds of slave labors of any nationality that are going on,” Swados said. “I hope they get some history, some beauty, some sadness. I hope they wake up. Aren’t we in a kind of communal slumber, all of us, of what’s going on?”
One hundred forty-six garment workers were killed in a fire that lasted only about half an hour. They were prevented from escaping the building because managers had locked the doors and stairwells. Almost half of them jumped to their deaths. The public horror that ensued led to regulation to improve safety and work conditions in factories.
Many Angles to Reporting on Foreign Workers in Israel
by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Expert on the politics of the Middle East and USC professor Laurie Brand pointed me towards some interesting reading on immigration and Israel recently — namely, that the tension between Israelis and immigrant workers began in the late 1990s, when the Israeli government began allowing foreign workers in order to replace Palestinian labor.
This Guardian article from 2003 details how one contingent of Chinese workers were “forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job” and were “also forbidden from engaging in any religious or political activity.” Their work contract “states that offenders will be sent back to China at their own expense.”
Preventing assimilation into Israeli society was clearly the intended effect of such contractual stipulations. The Guardian further writes that “advocates of foreign workers, who also come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania, say they are subject to almost slave conditions, and their employers often take away their passports and refuse to pay them.”
Do such contracts still exist today?