The Triangle Fire, Protocols Of Peace

The Triangle Fire, Protocols Of Peace: And Industrial Democracy In Progressive

Richard A. Greenwald
Series: Labor in Crisis
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Triangle Fire, Protocols Of Peace
    Book Description:

    America searched for an answer to "The Labor Question" during the Progressive Era in an effort to avoid the unrest and violence that flared so often in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the ladies' garment industry, a unique experiment in industrial democracy brought together labor, management, and the public. As Richard Greenwald explains, it was an attempt to "square free market capitalism with ideals of democracy to provide a fair and just workplace." Led by Louis Brandeis, this group negotiated the "Protocols of Peace." But in the midst of this experiment, 146 mostly young, immigrant women died in the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911. As a result of the fire, a second, interrelated experiment, New York's Factory Investigating Commission (FIC)-led by Robert Wagner and Al Smith-created one of the largest reform successes of the period.The Triangle Fire, the Protocols of Peace, and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New Yorkuses these linked episodes to show the increasing interdependence of labor, industry, and the state. Greenwald explains how the Protocols and the FIC best illustrate the transformation of industrial democracy and the struggle for political and economic justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0782-5
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. [Illustration]
    (pp. 1-2)
  5. Introduction Laboring Democracy
    (pp. 3-22)

    This book is about an important but woefully neglected historical subject, namely industrial democracy. Industrial democracy, at its core, was an effort to square free market capitalism with democracy to provide a fair and just workplace. While important, industrial democracy has been largely missing from debates about Progressive Era democracy. What has been missing specifically is a concrete understanding of political economy. We need to understand economic justice as the cornerstone of political democracy; to see it as part of the struggle to develop, implement, and refine a just political economy in the United States. This study sheds light on...

  6. Part I Private Protocolism:: Industrial Democracy in New York’s Ladies’ Garment Industry
    • [Part I: Introduction]
      (pp. 23-24)

      Industrial democracy was a term that before 1909 had significant relevance only for reformers and intellectuals. Events in Progressive Era New York grounded this abstract theory into the streets of the Lower East Side. The conflicts in the ladies’ garment industry provided a ready-made laboratory. The Protocols of Peace, a radical trade agreement in New York City’s ladies’ garment industry, ushered in a new experiment with industrial democracy. Strikes of 1909 and 1910 organized more than the workers, they organized the industry as well. The unity of the labor force, public support for workers, and pressure from industrial democrats brought...

    • 1 Workers Organizing Industry: The New York City Garment Strikes of 1909 and 1910
      (pp. 25-56)

      The first steps toward industrial democracy came from below, from the workers themselves. New York City’s ladies garment workers in 1909, and again in 1910, forced labor into the public’s consciousness, providing the spark reformers and industry activists needed to envision an alternative to the current industrial order. This chapter traces rank-and-file workers’ efforts to improve their lot. In the process, workers created an important and effective vehicle to channel their demands: a mature, stable trade union, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU or ILG). The ILG would become a major force in shaping the direction of industrial democracy...

    • 2 The Making of Industrial Democracy in the Ladies’ Garment Industry: The Creation of the Protocols of Peace
      (pp. 57-93)

      Reformers, such as those involved with the Protocol, saw industrial democracy astheanswer to industrial anarchy. “A radical transformation of society might take place,” write historians Nelson Lichtenstein and Howell John Harris inIndustrial Democracy in America,

      [B]ut it would be achieved in gradual, peaceful fashion, by piecemeal activities of men or women of good will, of all social classes, sharing common concerns about injustice and wastefulness of the social order … it was a vision, a goal, an implicit ideal for focusing criticism of the existing order.¹

      Industrial democracy held out a promise to workers as well. There...

    • 3 The Shifting Ground of Protocolism: Struggling for the Soul of Industrial Democracy
      (pp. 94-126)

      The Protocol offered a vision of industrial democracy that made little room for rank-and-file or shop-floor voices. It attempted to provide efficiency before democracy and have the former pay for the latter. Yet, workers did not passively accept the Protocol as created; workers shaped and contoured the developing industrial relations (IR) system. At the heart of these struggles was representation. Who spoke for the workers? Who represented their interests in the IR process?

      Three episodes, revolving around the issues of local versus (inter)national union control, highlight the persistent question of who spoke for the rank-and-file workers at the Protocol table....

  7. Part II Public Protocolism:: The Triangle Fire and the Transformation of Industrial Democracy
    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 127-128)

      Protocolism was a complex industrial regime that brought together labor, management, and “the concerned public.” It was an important attempt to start a new day for industrial relations. And, it was not without its problems, as we have seen. But it took an event in 1911 to highlight the limitations of Protocolism, as it then existed.

      On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Factory was the sight of one of the worst industrial fires in American history. One hundred and forty-six, mostly young, immigrant women died. What is central is that Triangle, though one of the largest manufacturers in the industry...

    • 4 “The Burning Building at 23 Washington Place”: The Triangle Fire and the Transformation of Industrial Democracy
      (pp. 129-153)

      The Triangle factory was one of only a handful of firms that had not settled with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) after the 1909 Uprising, remaining a nonunion shop. Triangle’s sheer size and power in the industry enabled it to resist the union. Garment manufacturers were usually small; Triangle, however, was a vast economic enterprise. Its ability to pay prevailing union wages, import strikebreakers and thugs, and contract out gave it the strength to beat the union.

      The Triangle factory occupied the top three floors of the modem Asch Building on the comer of Washington Place and Greene...

    • 5 Politics: Setting the Stage for Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York
      (pp. 154-169)

      The Triangle Fire set into motion a series of events that transformed New York’s “governing system,” to use historian Alan Dawley’s apt phrase, including a state apparatus (courts and legislatures), linkage institutions (parties, unions, or any other institutions that link voters to the state apparatus), and a dominant worldview or ideology.¹ New York’s governing system was reinvented during the years of Protocolism.² In the process, it forged an important relationship with workers and their unions. Protocolism also awoke a new element within the placid Democratic Party, and it cemented a new political coalition around issues of workers’ welfare.³

      These transformations...

    • 6 The Politics of Administrative Reform: The Factory Investigating Commission, 1911–1913
      (pp. 170-188)

      The factory Investigating Commission (FIC) incorporated much from the Protocol. In addition to personnel, the FIC adopted the language of industrial democracy. The Protocols’ chief goal was to modernize industry and thus gain profits through efficiencies rather than from sweating labor. The Protocol, therefore, needed to cover all shops within the industry to be effective. This proved an impossible task. Consequently, many began to realize that the state might be able to do what the Protocol could not: effectively regulate all industry. This would go a long way toward the transformation of industrial democracy that originally saw unions as the...

    • 7 Industrial Democracy Meets the Welfare State in Progressive Era New York
      (pp. 189-213)

      The Factory Investigating Commission (FIC) transformed Protocolism and industrial democracy by bringing in the state. The state took responsibility for policing industry, ensuring humane working conditions, and setting up standard industry practices—all part of the Protocol’s agenda for industrial democracy. Having achieved a limited success with this agenda, the FIC moved beyond “standard” labor issues into the realm of social welfare reform. Too often, scholars fail to see welfare reforms as part of a larger labor reform program. In many ways, the FIC’s turn to welfare was a natural and logical outgrowth of its evolving understanding of industrial democracy....

  8. Conclusion The Historical Legacy of Industrial Democracy: From Protocolism to the New Deal
    (pp. 214-222)

    Protocolism, the form industrial democracy took in Progressive Era New York, proved a radical departure from the past and an important answer to “the labor question” of the day. Collective bargaining, coupled with government regulation and a welfare state’s safety net, was an important marker for the twentieth century. Protocolism provided better wages and conditions for workers, it revitalized the labor movement (making it legitimate in the process), and it reorganized the state’s politics. Yet, for all its successes, Protocolism left unanswered key questions about the political economy of shop-floor democracy and the role of workers and unions in politics...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 223-282)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-322)
  11. Index
    (pp. 323-332)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)