Some Americans are commemorating the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (left) in novel ways.
In Maine, a small man (recently elected governor, with a push from Tea Partiers) is dismantling a labor-themed mural at the state's Department of Labor (because, a spokesman said, the mural "is not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals").
In Wisconsin, a small man (recently elected governor, with a push from Tea Partiers) is dismantling collective bargaining and public employee unions (because, he said, he campaigned on it -- although he did not).
In Indiana, Republican legislators have proposed to cripple unions by entitling parasites to refrain from funding the unions that negotiate contracts (over the objection of Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose first act in office had been to had been to eliminate unionization rights for 25,000 workers).
Maine's governor is not stopping at removing a mural from a wall. He also has vowed to rename conference rooms, including the one that honors Frances Perkins (right), the daughter of Maine for whom witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy launched a crusade against inhumane workplace conditions, leading to a long term as United States Secretary of Labor.
Many of today's Americans are unfamiliar with the conditions that caused the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, consequent to the work of Frances Perkins and others -- and perhaps because Americans haven't taken cues on labor issues from the likes of Paul LePage and Scott Walker for most of the past century.
We are confident that today's Republican unionbusters regret the 146 deaths of the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy, but we suspect they understand why the factory's owners needed to lock those doors, couldn't afford an adequate fire escape, deserved to be acquitted in the criminal trial, and deserved every penny of profit when their insurance proceeds exceeded the $75-per-victim judgment they lost in the civil lawsuit.
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