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Reflections from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN on Her Grandmother

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN was one of thousands of workers and community members who gathered in New York last Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

It was a special moment for Sosne because her maternal grandmother was working on the 8th floor of the factory the day the fire broke out on March 25, 1911. Miraculously, Sosne’s grandmother, Rose Bernstein, was able to make it down the stairs and survived the tragic fire.

The fire took the lives of 146 workers–mostly women–who were locked in the burning building and galvanized New York City and the nation to fight for workplace protections, spurred on union organizing, and inspired far-reaching reforms for workplace safety and workers’ rights.

Rose Bernstein left Poland with her sister when she as just 16 years old and immigrated to America through Ellis Island in New York. She had started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory as a machine operator just a year before the fire and it was one of her first jobs in America.

One hundred years later, Sosne says that workers face a lot of the same conditions. “We have to keep fighting because there’s nobody looking out for us and our safety,” she said.

A former psychiatric nurse at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Sosne says that healthcare is one of the most dangerous professions today and that healthcare workers continue to fight for safe staffing levels, health and safety training, protection from hazardous materials, and other dangers.

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