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Lessons from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

Every March, when the AFL-CIO pays tribute to the lives lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, it really hits home. That tragic event sparked a movement for worker safety that’s still relevant today. But you have to wonder, what are unions doing about similar issues today? 

Just last week, I spoke with a teacher from Maryland, and her stories were eye-opening. She’s dealing with fights breaking out in her classroom almost every day. It’s a miracle she hasn’t been hurt herself. 

And if you do a quick search online for “teacher injured by student,” you’ll find many more scary stories. But instead of tackling teacher safety head-on, unions like the Chicago Teachers Union are focused on other stuff, like taking students out of the classroom to vote. 

And it’s not just teachers facing dangers. Transit workers have been in the news too, with reports of assaults on MTA subway workers and bus drivers in New York City.  

Things have gotten so tense between their union and the MTA that they’re trading verbal blows. And while Governor Hochul has deployed National Guard troops to some transit hubs, not everyone’s convinced it’s the right move. 

The TWU Local 100, which initially backed the Governor, is now clashing with her over what they see as weak responses to crime. It’s a messy situation that highlights the need for better protection for our public servants. 

So, this union watchdog calls on unions to stop using workers to fill their pockets and support political agendas. Let’s honor the memory of those lost in 1911 by standing up for the safety of our public servants today. 

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Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.