Lisa Vinebaum: NEW DEMANDS? A walking performance commemorating the 1909-1910 New York City Shirtwaist Strike and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
Starting at 23–29 Washington Place , New York, NY
NEW DEMANDS? will begin at the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory located at 23-29 Washington Place, New York, NY and continue to other key sites:
11 Waverly Place
The headquarters of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)
Cooper Union Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square
Local 25 of the ILGWU met here in 1909 to vote for the general strike by shirtwaist workers
19 - 23 St Mark’s Place (formerly Arlington Hall)
Site of a 1910 reception and fundraising event for the strikers organized by the Socialist Women’s Committee
43 east 22nd Street The New York headquarters of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL)
In 1909, women workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory staged a strike to protest terrible working conditions in the factory. Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris locked out all the workers. On November 23rd, 1909, Local 25 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) met at the Cooper Union Auditorium, and voted for a general strike to shut down production in New York’s shirtwaist industry. Between 20,000 and 40,000 mostly young Jewish women workers went on strike in what came to be called the “Uprising of the Twenty Thousand” or the New York City Shirtwaist Strike of 1909-1910. The National Trade Union League (NTWU) and the Socialist Women’s Committee also supported the strike. The strike ended in 1910 after several weeks, when factory owners agreed to a 52 hour work week, pay raises, four paid legal holidays a year, and the creation of a grievance committee. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory did NOT sign the agreement. Just over one year later, on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Fire exits were kept locked by the owners, and the outside fire escape led nowhere. 147 immigrant women workers lost their lives.
New Demands? commemorates the Triangle Factory Fire while drawing attention to the fact that over 100 years later, garment workers around the world continue to endure unsafe and life threatening working conditions; to work long hours in non-unionized and unregulated factories and sweatshops; and to be paid below average national minimum wages in most countries where they work. In November 2012, more than 110 workers were killed in a fire at a factory in Bangladesh that manufactures clothes for large American-based retailers such as Walmart. It is estimated that over 600 garment workers have been killed in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2006.
New Demands? is part of an ongoing series of site-specific performances that commemorate histories of labor activism and highlight alarming cutbacks to workers’ rights.
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