Hundreds of men and women worked in a building with no automatic sprinklers, one flimsy fire escape and most exit doors locked to prevent theft.
When a fire started in a bin full of cutting scraps and spread rapidly, workers were trapped. The one open staircase became smoke filled. The elevators stopped working.
People in the street watched as woman after woman jumped to their deaths.
When it was over 146 people were dead, most of them young women ages 16-23.
The unions of this country fought for safe working conditions. They fought for child labor laws. They fought for fair working hours, vacation time, sick time.
And yes, health care and pensions.
Unions helped bring American workers a standard of living that at one time was unparalleled in the world.
The people screaming against the workers of Wisconsin, with their crap about cushy government jobs and the nerve of employees to want pensions, health benefits and a decent salary are the same people who once upon a time would have had cushy jobs themselves in American industries that have now gone overseas to places that don't have unions.
Those jobs are not coming back.
And people cheering the anti-unionist from behind are the industrialists who care about nothing but the bottom line. They'd gladly bring back industry to this country IF they could put American workers into the sort of conditions workers face in places like India and China.
The sort of conditions the unions saved thousands of American workers from enduring.
The sort the 146 women (and men) at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory lived and died under.
THAT's what unions are about.
And here's Pete Seeger singing a song that is sadly still valid.