Shirley Ripullone
[Sept. 2011]  Hillsdale, NY

This Labor Day I reflected on the New York City Triangle Fire that took place a hundred years ago. One hundred forty -six garment workers died, either because they were trapped in the building or because they jumped to their deaths.

The garment workers in the building had demanded sprinklers and unlocked stairwells, but the buildings owners refused. When the Triangle Fire broke out, locked stairwell doors trapped workers in the fire, and there were no sprinklers to put the fire out.
  [use arows to cont.]

In the months after the blaze, dozens of fire safety, building codes and workplace regulations were passed, helping to make factories much safer.

What is not as well known about this fire is the New York City business community’s strong opposition to the legislation, opposition that today seems heartless and cruel.

The changes to the fire code, said a spokesman for the Associated Industries of New York, would lead to

  “the wiping out of industry in this

The regulations, wrote George Olvany, special counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York City, would force

  expenditures on precautions
  that were “absolutely needless
  and useless.”
  “The best government is the
  least possible government,”

said Laurence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board.

  “To my mind, this [post-
  Triangle regulation] is all

What is striking about these quotes is that they sound exactly like the quotes we read in today’s newspapers from right wing politicians and supporters in opposition to government regulation, including our Congressman, Chris Gibson.

At Millerton’s Town Hall meeting last week, Gibson presented a job creation policy based upon the same claims and philosophy expressed by the opponents to the Triangle Fire reform legislation that

  “government regulations kill jobs.”

We have recently witnessed the largest lost of jobs since the Great Depression, brought about not by too much government regulation, but rather by too little or inadequate regulation of Wall Street and the US mortgage industry.

The financial meltdown is our Triangle Fire of the early 21st century. And just like the Triangle Fire, the most important thing we can do to create and protect jobs is to make sure that a regulatory environment exists to prevent another economic meltdown caused by financial industry greed.

So, why isn’t Gibson a champion of
making effective financial regulation protecting consumers one of the cornerstones of his Washington? Instead, Gibson voted for H.R. 1315, misleadingly and disingenuously entitled “Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011.”

This legislation, which if enacted, would have amended the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in a manner that would expose American consumers and the nation’s economy to the same risks that led to the 2008 financial crisis. He has also voted against regulations that are essential to making sure our air and water are safe and clean among others.

When we hear Congressman Gibson, or the Chamber of Commerce, or anyone else talk about government regulation saying: “That will kill our industry,” or “That would force expenditures on precautions that are absolutely needless and useless” or “That will kill jobs,” or words of similar meaning, REMEMBER THE TRIANGLE FIRE.


Geez Shirley. We all know that profit trumps life, health, and everything else in the universe!


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