New York Shirtwaist Strike of 1909

[Group of striking women - shirtwaist workers. NYC. 1909]

A group of women shirtwaist workers striking in 1909

Two years before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911, more than 20,000 shirtwaist workers in New York joined together and went on strike in protest of longer working hours and less pay.  They also advocated for their safety, as they were especially concerned about the locked factory doors.  They demanded a 20-percent pay raise and a 52 hour workweek and extra pay for overtime (1).

Most smaller factories accepted these new conditions and the workers went back after only months.  Unfortunately for the Triangle Factory workers, the owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were extremely anti-union.  They resorted to hiring thugs to beat up the picketers and bribing the police force to arrest striking workers (1).  Eventually in 1910, Blanck and Harris agreed to raise pay and lower hours, but they refused to make a union agreement.  They also failed to address their concerns about the locked doors and condemned fire escapes (1).  Triangle workers went back to their same unsafe conditions as the year before.  This would unfortunately cost them their lives one year later.

Source:

1. ("Triangle Shirtwaist Fire | AFL-CIO" 2019)

New York Shirtwaist Strike of 1909