Previously, Liu had rejected a contract that would have paid a contractor roughly $286 million. Liu’s issue with the contract was that the language allowed for “unspecified time and expense costs,” as well as loose language regarding budgets. The new contract will cost the city $95 million, and has language that will keep costs relatively fixed. Kudos to Liu for asking for a tighter contract in these difficult economic times.
Liu also wants every request from the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to submit a comparison between the “budgeted amount and the revised estimate for every request for payment or change” order submitted to the comptroller, according to the press release issued last week. We always want a more efficient government, but hopefully this will not slow down the process if a price comparison needs to happen for every expense. Cost concerns are important, but in the area of emergency services, here is hoping things happen quickly.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: A Memorial
On May 1, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies (IPR) in Washington, D.C., will be hosting a conference celebrating the 120th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, the edict issued by Pope Leo XIII that put Catholicism into the fight for fair labor practices. Not all Catholics today support every effort by organized labor, but the Church recognizes the plight of the unprotected worker. Unfortunately, another anniversary creeps up on us: the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers.
My grandfather was a sewing machine mechanic, and I joined him on a few visits to Brooklyn sweat shops where the workers (almost all of them women) looked miserable as they hammered away on those machines in the heat. That was about 75 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (shirtwaists are what we now call blouses), and after labor laws made working in these factories safer.
You can attend a memorial service on Wednesday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at All Faiths Cemetery, 67-29 Metropolitan Ave in Middle Village. The service is a memorial for Bertha Greb, who was 25 years old when she died in the fire. The event is hosted by the Triangle Fire Memorial Association, and former State Senator Serf Maltese, who is one of the organizers for this event.
The labor concerns of 1911 are not exactly the same as they are now. Unions have lost steam in the last 20 years, mainly due to lower membership, technology, and perhaps due to the ramifications of a few federal free trade policies that did not bode well for manufacturing in the United States. The conditions that the women in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory worked under were dangerous, and the positive results that followed are good for working people.
Remembering this fire is important for New Yorkers; it was more than a tragic event or accident. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire defined a time when people had very few rights and even less of a say in their government.