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Death and Profits

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When we go to work, we don't expect to put our lives in jeopardy, but some jobs have built-in danger. From the coal miner to the factory worker, safety is a constant threat. But making workplaces safe can get in the way of production, and not all employers are willing to sacrifice profit for safety.

The Springhill Mine Disaster: By the late 1950s the Nova Scotia town of Springhill was no stranger to the hazards of mines, having suffered two major disasters in the previous 60 years. But on October 23, 1958, a "bump" in the #2 mine at the Cumberland Pit caused one of the worst disasters in mining history. The 1958 bump buried 174 men 13,000 feet underground. In the end, 75 men died in the accident. Many of the survivors spent up to eight days trapped in the dark before they heard their names called from above. As a result of the disasters and continuing hazards, the mine was finally closed in 1971.

The Triangle Shirwaist Factory Fire: Despite repeated attempts by workers and community leaders, New York City's Triangle Shirwaist Factory employed girls as young as 14 years of age making shirts for sweatshop wages in an overcrowded factory. When the fire broke out on March 25, 1911, employees on the 10th floor were alerted by phone and escaped by climbing onto the roof and down a fire escape. For the girls working on the lower floors, there was no warning - and no way out. The doors had been locked to prevent them from leaving before the end of their shift. Trapped in an inferno, the young women broke windows and leapt to their death rather than suffer the flames. 146 of the 500 workers died that day. The incident caused uproar throughout the country ad provoked the passage of safety legislation and better conditions for workers. It is seen as one of the most significant events in the history of labour relations in the Unted States.

2002, 46 min 45 s

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