March 25, 1911 was the date of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City. The fire exits were blocked, windows to the fire escapes were nailed shut, 146 garment workers perished. Many cite it as the beginning of the labor movement in this country.
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor levied fines against C.J.’s Seafood, a Louisiana supplier to Wal-Mart for violations including a blocked exit door, unsafe electrical outlets, and a lack of fire extinguishers and exit signs. All this in a plant where shrimp were peeled and boiled by workers who were not paid the minimum wage or overtime, were forced to work 24 hour shifts and were threatened with violence against them and their families if they complained. To its credit, Wal-Mart suspended C.J.’s as a supplier when it found out about these abuses and violations. Full details are in the link below.
Has nothing changed in a century? Are workers lives still seen as so insignifigant that they are treated like this? Why are employers allowed to sacrifice employees on the altar of profit? How long will this disregard continue?
I understand the state our economy is in. I know that people are desperate for work. But how many of you reading this right now would be willing to work under these circumstances? I’d wager the answer is zero. In that case, we need to speak out whenever we see labor injustice or worker abuse. As it was so aptly stated by Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.