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The Real Barriers to Economic Security

March 28, 2011

Who said the following:

“To my mind this is all wrong. The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government. [This] new law would drive manufacturers out of the city and state.”

a)    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
b)    NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
c)    The head of the Chamber of Commerce in [fill in the blank] city or state
d)    None of the above.

The actual speaker was Terence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board in New York City, arguing a century ago against safety regulations being proposed following the Triangle Waist Company fire.

That’s right – the factory fire on March 25, 1911 that killed 146 workers, most of them immigrant women in their teens and twenties. The workers were killed after fire swept through their workplace and locked doors kept them from getting out. Triangle’s owners were not out of compliance with the laws – there were none.

The speaker could have been Scott Walker, or Speaker Quinn, or business lobbyists in 2011, still arguing that government shouldn’t tell employers what to do.

And the results are still horrific for working families.

Just as the courageous organizing of garment workers last century created the conditions for minimum workplace standards, so the broad and diverse coalitions fighting today for standards such as paid sick days will eventually bring in a new era where family values don’t end at the workplace door.

Click here for more on the Triangle fire

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