NEW YORK — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was loudly booed Friday at a speech commemorating the deaths a century ago of 146 people in a factory fire that then led to major labor law reforms across the United States.
Bloomberg was one of the principal speakers at the ceremonies in Manhattan at the site of the 1911 blaze at what was then the Triangle Waist Company.
The mayor told the crowd that the fire, which became a symbol of the unregulated sweatshop conditions endured by employees, galvanized politicians to transform workplace conditions.
“You have a right to live and work in dignity and earn the chance to advance in life,” Bloomberg said. “They made reforms that helped turn America’s ideals into realities.”
However Bloomberg’s speech, carried live on NY1 television, was interrupted repeatedly by loud booing.
The mayor, in his third term, has run into stiff opposition from public sector unions to his budget cuts and attempts to reform what he says is an unaffordable public pension system.
The Triangle fire is a touchstone for labor groups and the centenary is drawing special attention because of an ongoing dispute in Wisconsin between the Republican governor and public unions.
A complete lack of safety measures and a locked staircase doomed the Triangle employees in the brief, but fierce blaze at their garment factory.
However, the resulting outcry triggered historic new worker protection laws in New York State and then across the country.
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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