This short film is not new. A friend shared it on Facebook this morning and, as I had never seen it, I thought I’d share it with you. It was made to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York in 1911, the worst industrial disaster in the city’s history. But until workers the world over have basic rights, it will be timely – and essential viewing.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 people. Workers were unable to escape as the owners had locked the doors to prevent unauthorised breaks and theft of goods from the factory. The majority of those killed were young women – aged 16 to 23. In the wake of Rana Plaza, Tazreen and more, this story is all too familiar.
The aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire saw a shift in labour rights in America. Eventually sweatshops were eliminated across the country. Outlawed. Illegal. The same was happening for industrial workers all over the ‘Western’ or ‘Developed’ world. This was a major victory for the bulk of the population in these nations.
But as has so often occurred in history, in taking care of our own problems, we dumped them elsewhere. We exported our labour rights violations to other countries.
Now, 100 years on, it’s time we cleaned up the mess we’ve made. And the only way that this will happen is if consumers start voting with their hard-earned money. If you buy from fast fashion, high street brands who are exploiting workers overseas, then urge them to do what is only right. Write them a letter outlining your concerns and if you don’t get a satisfactory response, then stop buying from them. There are high street brands who are making changes. Most have not eliminated the human rights violations in their supply chains altogether but small changes are a starting point. Spend your money with them. Or better yet, save your money. Lining the pockets of massive multi-national corporations is not as important as basic human rights. Nor is wearing the latest ‘fashion’.
It is so important to teach our children well. Let’s encourage them to think about what they are buying and why. If we can raise our children to be mindful consumers, then they will live more sustainable lives, which will benefit the planet and all her inhabitants.
You don’t have to take this from me. Listen to the thousands of experts out there who have been telling us that we need to make changes for decades. Most importantly, listen to your own conscience because at the end of the day, this is a question of ethics and turning a blind eye is irresponsible and just plain wrong.
Sarah, The Fableists