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History through the lens of today: Worker rights

Photojournalist Andrew Lichtenstein is documenting sites important to America's past, with the idea that what he finds there reflects on what's important to people in the present.  Introduction: About this project

Andrew Lichtenstein / Facing Change

Lawrence, Massachusetts

Above: A man fills out a job application at a restaurant built in a newly renovated section of the Wood Mill in Lawrence, Mass. Most of the huge industrial factories along the Merrimack River are abandoned or have been torn down, but there have been recent efforts to renovate some of the remaining mills. The Wood Mill was at the center of the famous Bread and Roses textile strike of 1912, when thousands of young immigrant women walked off the job because of horrible working conditions. Today a growing Latino population supplies labor for the service industry in the economically depressed town.

 

Andrew Lichtenstein / Facing Change

Flint, Michigan

Above: In the 1930s the General Motors production plants in the "Chevy In The Hole" complex in Flint, Mich., were among the largest automobile factories in the world, employing thousands of workers. These GM factories played a pivotal role in the sit-down strike of 1935-36, which gave birth to the United Auto Workers and the C.I.O. Today, the area is an abandoned, weed-strewn lot, the workers' homes and bars and churches torn down or rotting like ancient ships abandoned in a concrete sea.

 

Andrew Lichtenstein / Facing Change

Blair, West Virginia

Above: James Weekly, a former coal miner, refuses to sell his land to mining companies, which are seeking to strip mine the mountain he lives on to remove billions of dollars worth of coal. Blair Mountain is an historic site because of a 1921 four-day gun battle between union coal miners and the National Guard. The state of West Virginia, under pressure from coal companies, has refused to list the mountain as an historic site to be preserved and plans to continue mining the area are moving forward.

Andrew Lichtenstein / Facing Change

New York, New York

Above: Every year, on the anniversary of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the unions that were born from that disaster hold a rally at the site, next to Washington Square Park in New York's Greenwich Village. On March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, most of them young Italian and Jewish immigrant women from the Lower East Side, died trying to escape the flames. The survivors joined, and built, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Editor's note: This is Part 3 in a three-part series, History through the lens of today, that we're publishing in PhotoBlog this week.

Lichtenstein continues this work with the help of a grant from The Aftermath Project. 

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