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This Week: The Ashes of Triangle Fire. PLUS: GOP's Despicable Politics | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: The Ashes of Triangle Fire. PLUS: GOP's Despicable Politics

This week, The Nation and TheNation.com commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire--an unspeakable tragedy that took the lives of 146 young garment workers—mostly young, Italian and Jewish women—in New York City’s Greenwich Village. One hundred years ago this Friday, we remember its far-reaching impact on the necessary role of unions, the rights of workers and sweeping reform that followed.

In “Remembering the Triangle Fire,” dean of New York labor history Joshua Freeman reminds us that the tragedy catalyzed change unseen in U.S. history; it brought the plight of factory-workers into the national spotlight, galvanized action that by 1919 led to 1 in 5 workers going on strike, and intensified momentum for both state and national legislation. "By 2001," adds Freeman, "the number of deaths from workplace accidents had fallen to fewer than half those at the time the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed and just a fraction of the toll at the time of Triangle."

Lessons learned from the ashes of the Triangle Fire in the decades that followed must be learned again, writes AFL-CIO’s Tula Connell this week in “The Triangle Fire: Still Burning Before Our Nation.” Connell is right to remind us about the seemingly never-ending cycle of tragic mining accidents, the “shadow-economy” of immigrant labor, Wisconsin and states across the country where the right to form a union is under siege.

Also this week…

SLIDEHSOW: Milestones in Labor History
The Nation’s long and rich history of covering America’s labor battles and milestones is on display Friday, in a moving slideshow of images and articles from the archive. From the 1886 Haymarket Square Riots in Chicago to children working in Georgia’s cotton mills in 1909, on through the protests in Wisconsin, Friday’s slideshow is a must see.

EDITORIAL: The Cost of Libyan Intervention
In this week's issue, the Editors, in "The Libya Intervention," offer a cautionary note on the costs of military action in Libya. Described as a "war of choice" undertaken without Congressional authorization, military action of any kind in the name of humanitarian intervention is bound to have messy and unintended consequences. Dilemmas abound. Be sure to listen to colleague Roane Carey on BBC’s Newshour and read this week's editorial here.

VIDEO: The GOP's Extremists Are Using 'Despicable Politics'
Colleague John Nichols and I joined MSNBC’s Ed Shultz this week to discuss the plummeting approval ratings of extremist Republican Governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan where anti-labor legislation aimed at gutting the rights of working and middle class folks is getting significant push back by voters. And, as I explain, a newly proposed bill that would deny food stamps to families who have a member on strike is simply despicable politics. Watch the video here.

COURT VICTORY: Challenging Unconstitutional Spying Law
We were heartened by news this week that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a long-standing lawsuit against the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The original lawsuit filed in 2008 by the ACLU on behalf of Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center and others challenged a FISA amendment that has far-reaching implications on confidential communications between reporters and their international sources. Dismissed on procedural grounds in 2009, the legal challenge can now continue. As Tuesday's New York Times lead editorial points out, “the final outcome is far from certain,” but it is a step in the right direction.

BLOG: US Uncut Says It's Not About Budgets, It's About Revenue
Our guest-blogger Allison Kilkenny continues her coverage of US Uncut as another national day of action is planned for Saturday, March 26th. In over 40 cities, US Uncut members will stage demonstrations to bring attention to America's growing revenue problem. “Saturday will be about raising the profile of the group and also about bringing awareness of America’s revenue problem to the very people being asked to sacrifice their already meagre services,” writes Kilkenny. Follow her coverage here and be sure to watch Kilkenny on GritTV with a preview of what’s in store for Saturday.

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