SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT HAVE A ROLE IN PROTECTING WORKERS?
In social studies class, you learned about the famous fire that happened in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. It was 1911 and the fire killed 146 workers. Later on, inspectors found that the conditions in the factory were terrible, what we’d now call a “sweatshop” – totally overcrowded, no decent fire escapes, locked doors that trapped workers while the fire raged. Some of the victims were as young as 14 years old… so this story really hit home for you.
Your best friend Toby wasn’t buying it later when you talked about it at lunch.
“I have no idea why we have to learn about this stuff. Number one, just the name, shirtwaist – what’s up with that? Number two, kids don’t work in factories anymore. Why should we care about this? I think it’s way more important to learn about what’s happening now.”
“Some of the people who died were 14, Toby. That’s how old we are! Can’t you relate to that?”
“Not really. Yeah, we’re 14. And we don’t work in shirtwaist or waist shirt – or any other kind of factories.”
You didn’t have to be convinced that learning about this story was important. You connected with it personally. Toby just doesn’t feel the same connection.
What else is there in the story that still makes it important to consider today?
Investigate the primary sources about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. What are three aspects of this story that might persuade someone like Toby to see how things that happened in the past can still matter today? 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 is rules and laws to avoid workplaces that are harmful to employees' life and health.