Twenty two year old Vincenza Benanti’s shoulders were probably aching as she sat at her sewing machine making shirts she could never afford to wear. But the aches were quickly forgotten as the smell of smoke grew and she was overcome with flames, burned alive along with her sisters. Her family is large and lives on though. Amina was a sister of Vincenza’s and she sat at a sewing machine half a world and a century away with her own siblings in this drama. The flames came so quickly this time that Amina didn’t even have time to stand up. Most were burned into charred statues where they sat. As you read this the extended family of these victims work throughout the world in factories awaiting their own consumption into the violence of profit and that consumption will surely come unless we rise up.
Vincenza worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 when the factory owners refused to spend the money on sprinklers that did exist even in 1911. The factory owners also insisted on locking the doors to prevent the lower classes from pilfering. They would rather risk lives than a few shirts of lost profit. Amina worked at the factory in Bangladesh that burned to the ground in 2012. It manufactured for Walmart, Sears, and Disney. Again the management refused the workers egress when the fire alarm sounded. They were blocked from exiting and ordered to remain at the workstations so as not to impede production. Profit at all cost even life.
Today a ship arrived in Newark, NJ from Bangladesh. It carried materials made in the death trap factories. These would be unloaded by International Longshoremen who are themselves in a fight with the same capitalists who would watch with apathy as employees burn. The fight is to negotiate a contract that strengthens rather than weakens the unions position, a rare negotiation indeed. The truck drivers who drove the materials from these docks are also trying to organize a union for better wages and working conditions. Workers in Bangladesh, in the U.S., and throughout history have had to fight the capitalist for what is rightfully theirs. As these seemingly disparate groups come together and as the common person sees their own connection to the web of injury we will all come to see that capital creates nothing, true power is with the people.