Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

April 18, 2003

NINETY-TWO YEARS after New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that claimed 146 lives, the city has designated the site as an official landmark. The ceremony took place on March 25, 2003 - the anniversary date of the 1911 fire.

In its account of the occasion, The New York Times of March 26 said:

"A SILVER BELL tolled 146 times yesterday outside a building at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place in Manhattan.

"The bell rang out, as it has every March 25, in remembrance of Nettie Rosenthal, Julia Rosen, Sophie Salemi and the 143 other people-mostly women, mostly immigrants, who died at the building 92 years ago.

"THE FIRE, the worst factory fire in New York City's history, shocked a nation into action. It brought about a wide array of new fire safety laws and spurred the labor movement's effort to unionize garment workers.

"The building made famous in horror became an official landmark yesterday. Although the designation is typically bestowed upon architectural wonders, said Robert B. Tiemey, chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, sometimes history is reason enough.

" 'ABSENT THE HISTORY, it's a building that might not make it on its own to rise to the status of landmark,' Mr. Tiemey said. 'I think a lot of people believe the building was destroyed in the fire.'" The New York Times went on to provide this account of the garment factory blaze:

"Hardly anyone who has ever heard the story of the Triangle fire can forget the details. On Saturday, March 25, 1911, just before closing time at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, which occupied the top three floors of the 10-story building, a fire erupted atop a table cluttered with fabrics. With tissue paper patterns hanging just above the table, it began to spread quickly.

"THE WORKERS, mostly young Italian and Jewish women in their teens and 20s, raced for the doors but they were locked, per company policy, to keep the workers at their stations.

"Some of the workers managed to flee using the elevators; others escaped via a tiny rickety fire escape. Scores died inside. And some turned to the windows as their only way out.

"By the time fire trucks arrived, dead bodies lay in the street and more women were in the windows.

"BUT THE FIRE TRUCK ladders reached only as high as the seventh floor and the life nets were too weak to catch so many bodies at once.

"The New York Times detailed death leap after death leap in an article the next day:

"A 13-year-old girl hung for three minutes by her fingertips to the sill of a 10th-floor window. A tongue of flames licked at her fingers, and she dropped to death.

"A GIRL THREW her pocketbook, then her hat, then her furs from a 10th-floor window. A moment later her body came whirling after them to death.

"At a ninth-floor window, a man and a woman appeared. The man embraced the woman and kissed her. Then he hurled her to the street and jumped. Both were killed. Five girls smashed a pane of glass, dropped in a struggling tangle, and were crushed into a shapeless mass."

Returning to the ceremony. The New York Times reported:

"ON THE SIDEWALK in front of the building yesterday, 146 white carnations were left to honor the dead..."


EDWARD G. COOPER, a former president of Multnomah County Employees Local 88, was honored posthumously by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) with a Certificate of Appreciation. The NOLC announced the award at its annual Labor Appreciation and Recognition dinner March 29 at the Westmoreland Union Manor in Southeast Portland.

Judy O'Connor, executive secretary-treasurer of Portland-based NOLC, paid tribute to Cooper with these words:

"THE LIST of Edward G. Cooper's service to organized labor is extensive, diverse and inspirational. The highlights of his distinguished history include activity in the Oregonian strike in the 1960s and service to AFSCME as president in the 1970s. Ed leaves a legacy of lasting contributions to the labor movement and the community."

Cooper was born on Feb. 26, 1916 in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and moved to Portland with his family in 1925. He graduated from Washington High School. In World War II, he served with the United States Army Air Corps in Europe and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

ED COOPER died on Nov. 19, 2002 at age 86. Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Elma Hemo Cooper; three daughters, Stepham Cooper, Pamela Gulley and Terese Scharback; and one grandchild.

Before the strike against the Oregonian and Oregon Journal began on Nov. 10, 1959, Ed had worked as a mailer at the Oregonian and belonged to Mailers Local 13. Later, he was employed as a property appraiser for Multnomah County and became a member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 88.


...Bud Barnes dies, 75

WILLIAM HARRY BARNES of Portland, a 52-year-member of Asbestos Workers Local 36, died at age 75 on April 3 after a heart attack due to other complications, including diabetes. "Bud," as he was known, was planning to attend a Local 36 retirees breakfast on April 3 and had phoned a friend the night before to make arrangements to pick him up. He suffered a heart attack during the night and was taken to a hospital where he died.

Barnes was born on Aug. 29, 1927 in Tillamook on the Oregon Coast. His family later moved to Portland where he graduated from Jefferson High School. After World War II service in the United States Navy, he attended the University of Portland and the old Vanport College.

In 1951 he joined Local 51 as an apprentice. He became active in the union, serving on the Executive Board and as a trustee. In 1965 he was elected as business agent. He held that post until 1971 and then worked for several years as a superintendent on construction projects.

IN 1975 he was appointed as apprenticeship coordinator for the asbestos insulators and also served on the Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council. After his retirement in 1986 he operated Carmen's Restaurant and bar on NE Sandy Blvd. for several years.

Survivors include his wife, Phyllis, whom he married in 1949; a daughter, Kathy Blay, an office secretary for Glaziers Local 740 and Floor Coverers Local 1236, who is a member of Office and Professional Employees Local 11; and a son, Brad, a journeyman member of Local 36.

Barnes was cremated on April 9 with arrangements by Bateman Carroll Funeral Home of Gresham. A private service was held. Remembrances can be sent to Diabetes Care Center Research.


EDWARD J. WHELAN, a former president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, said this column erred in recently quoting the Labor History Calendar as saying that Laborers Municipal Employees Local 483 was the first union of city workers when it was founded in 1928. Ed, a retired member of Portland Fire Fighters Local 43, said that Local 43 was established in 1918, 10 years before Local 483's founding.


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