BTS 3/25/11: Arab Protests; Triangle Fire Centennial

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On tonight’s program we begin with Mark LeVine for an update on the developments in Egypt, the serious situation in Bahrain and the UN intervention in Libya. Mark was in Bahrain just over a week ago, as the Saudis sent in 1000 ‘troops’ to quell the protests there. The Saudis are interfering in every Arab country, attempting to prevent the spread of Tunisia and Egypt’s successes. We’ll also talk to Mark about how the activists in Egypt view the present situation as well as the intervention in Libya.

Then we turn to today’s commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 1:40pm today California time marked to the minute the exact time 100 years ago that someone tossed a cigarette into a bin of scrap cloth on the 8th floor of the Asch Building on New York’s Lower East Side, touching off what for the last century has been known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research, Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations joins us to talk today about the fire’s significance for labor history in the 20th Century and lessons for labor today as it faces an all out assault on its gains. Cornell Univ Press has put out a Centennial edition of Leon Stein’s classic, The Triangle Fire. Kate will join Eileen Nevitt who talks to us from New York’s centennial commemoration of the Fire. Eileen’s grandmother, Annie Sprinsock, was a 17 year old Russian-Jewish immigrant who operated a sewing machine on the ninth floor of the Triangle at the time of the Fire. She narrowly escaped the inferno with her life but managed to perform a heroic deed in the process by helping to save a friend who turned out to be the last person off the ninth floor.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Mark LeVine is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a musician, brought us music a few weeks ago directly from Tahrir Square (more on that in a moment), speaks Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Persian, as well as Italian, French, German and English. LeVine is an accomplished rock guitarist and has played with noted rock and world beat musicians such as Mick Jagger, Chuck D, Michael Franti, and Doctor John. He recorded with Moroccan Hassan Hakmoun and the French Gypsy band Les Yeux Noirs on Ozomatli's album Street Signs which won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative album in 2005. His books include: Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (University of California Press, 2005), Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil (Oneworld Publications, 2005), An Impossible Peace: Oslo and the Burdens of History (Zed Books, 2007), and Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Three Rivers Press, 2008).

2. Kate Bronfenbrenner is Director of Labor Education Research, Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and is a highly regarded expert on labor union organizing and collective bargaining strategies. Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations has put out a Centennial edition of Leon Stein’s gripping classic The Triangle Fire, in time for the commemoration today, through Cornell University Press. Her publications include: No Holds Barred—The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing, Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital Through Cross-Border Campaigns, Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor, co-authored with Tom Juravich, and Organizing to Win, among many others.

3. Eileen Nevitt is a licensed clinical social worker, talking to us from New York and the centenary commemoration of the Triangle Fire. Eileen's paternal grandmother, Annie Sprinsock, was a 17 year old sewing machine operator on the 9th floor on the day of the fire at the Triangle Shortwaist Factory. Annie narrowly escaped the flames on the last elevator down.