Rags to Riches to Rags: New Yorks garment district

Not so long ago New York actually had a garment industry. Imagine that! Here’s a trailer for a new movie on HBO:

And an excerpt from Where Am I Wearing? for good measure:

The Northeast United States was once the bottom. Young girls worked at garment factories and textile mills. They were subjected to prisonlike conditions. Their rights were few, and their struggles many. In 1911, 141 workers—mostly women and girls—were burned to death in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. Escape from the fire was prohibited by a broken elevator and the presence of only one fire escape. As workers attained more rights, the bottom moved to the South and eventually jumped overseas where it fought communism and cut the price of our clothes.

Oh, heck here’s another excerpt:

Is solidarity possible? At the turn of the twentieth century as Durkheim’s idea of solidarity began to take hold, the world was a much different place. In the United States, the labor movement was fighting for a minimum wage and a 40-hour workweek. Workers rioted at Chicago’s Haymarket Square. Labor Day was created. The country was collectively appalled by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. The workers fighting for their rights were our countrymen. We shared a flag, a language, a culture, and a passion for baseball. The lives of the workers weren’t much different from that of every American’s. It wasn’t hard to imagine what the lives of the people who made our clothes were like. In a sense, they were us. Producer lived with consumer.

But today, we share little with the people who make our clothes. We’re divided by oceans, politics, language, culture, and a complex web of economic relationships. If they are overworked and underpaid, it doesn’t affect our daily lives as it did during the turn of the twentieth century. So we don’t think about them much, and they don’t think about us much.

 
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