103 years ago today 146 garment workers died in the greatest loss of life in New York City until September 11, 2001: The Triangle Factory Fire. It became a galvanizing moment in the history of labor and the regulation of industry, with familiar arguments still echoing today.
From Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen’s piece at Capital and Main:
As representative of the Associated Industries of New York insisted that regulations would mean “the wiping out of industry in this state.” Mabel Clark, vice president of the W.N. Clark Company, a canning corporation, opposed any restrictions on child labor. “I have seen children working in factories, and I have seen them working at home, and they were perfectly happy,” she declared.
Terence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board, summed up the business argument against regulation. “To my mind this is all wrong,” he declared. “The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government.” The board warned that new laws would drive “manufacturers out of the City and State of New York.”