SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT HAVE A ROLE IN PROTECTING WORKERS?
In social studies class, you learned about the deadly fire that happened in 1911 in New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. One hundred forty-six workers were killed, and afterward inspectors discovered that the conditions in the factory had been terrible. The building was what we’d now call a “sweatshop” — totally overcrowded, with no decent fire escapes and locked doors that trapped workers while the fire raged. Some of the victims were as young as 14 years old…It’s difficult to imagine.
Your best friend Toby was just as surprised when you started talking about it at lunch. Toby just started working at the yogurt store. He explains that when he was hired, he had to fill out lots of forms. Some of those forms had information about his rights as an employee, including how many hours he’s allowed to work in a week, and what to do if he gets hurt at work. “I can’t imagine how I could hurt myself at the yogurt store. It’s good that kids aren’t allowed to work in factories anymore. That’s got to be dangerous,” he says.
Your social studies teacher explained that the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire shocked the nation, and exposed the way that many private companies treated their workers, sometimes cutting corners on safety to make more profits. This fire led to for all workers across the country.
Investigate the primary sources about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Why did the fire lead to worker protection? What role do you think the government should take in the way a private business is run? Make your case.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
Worker protection laws are designed to protect workers from conditions that are harmful to employees' life and health.