Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Letter

Dear Miss Kate Leone:
I’m writing this letter because I’ve recently taken up sewing as a hobby. I saw some of your work or rather the work that is done at your shop, and I thought maybe you could give me some tips.

First of all I am having trouble with my seams. They seem to go every which way but straight. And I believe that in order to have a piece of clothing that looks good, I need to have straight seams. Am I applying to much pressure to the presser foot or do you have other suggestions.

Next the machine just stops sewing sometimes. I look to see if there is excess thread, and I can’t find any is there something else that causes it jam this way?

I’m sure that these questions may seem a bit trivial to a seamstress as skilled as you are. How exactly did you become so skilled at the age of 14?

The blouses that you and your co-workers made are beautiful. I can’t imagine how you do it with my limited skills. I would be overwhelmed. But with so many talented seamstresses at your factory, you must be able to get loads of advice.

I’ve heard that the Triangle Shirt Waist Company Factory you work in does have a few drawbacks. I was surprised that your bosses lock the doors while you work so that you cannot leave your work room floor during work hours. I was also surprised when I heard that your work day started at 7:30am and often worked until 9:00pm. That’s an extremely long day. And I wonder how you find time to do anything other than work. What about time for education? It seems you are very young and that you should be able to have a little more time to yourself.

I was so sad when I heard what happened at the factory. I was even sadder when I heard how the supervisors at your factory had locked the doors so that you and your co-workers couldn’t exit the work floor. It must have been to see the flames and realize that you needed to get out of the building. I can only imagine what the terror you felt when you realized that you could not get down the steps, and that the elevators were no longer working. I wonder what you were thinking about when you realized that you couldn’t escape the fire.

While I wish the individuals who were responsible for the death of you and 145 other of your co-workers had done things differently, they did not. But I do believe that that horrible day did make it possible for some changes to occur in the workplace. Child labor laws have been enacted, which limit the number of hours individuals your age can work. And other laws have been passed to assure that all workplaces have emergency evacuation plans for their employees. And it is much easier to form unions now. I’m sure all of these things could have reduced the chance of your deaths.

But I still don’t understand after your deaths a century ago, how it is possible that recent studies show that 98% of all garment factories in Los Angeles have workplace safety issues that could result in serious injuries or death.

I just thought that I would let you and your co-workers that on Labor Day 2013 your deaths at the Triangle Waistcoat Factory Company haven’t been forgotten, and that there are labor unions, and government agencies who are actually trying to ensure that the tragedy that occurred at your factory does not occur to other factory workers.


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  2. What a wonderful tribute to these hard working souls. You are so creative and talented. This is one of the stories that saddens me most. You did a great job!

    1. Thanks! I thought it was time for us to think about the reason we celebrate labor day.

  3. Superb. This was really well done and makes me think very differently about the day. Thank you.

  4. I can't sew, I have wished I could at times but it wasn't something I took to.......oh well we all can't