A new collection of specters haunts the earth: 72 workers killed May 13 in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.
The fire “started” when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn’t sure the building had any fire escapes.
Dionesio Candido, whose daughter, granddaughter, sister-in-law and niece were among the missing, said iron grilles reinforced with fencing wire covered windows on the second floor that ‘could prevent even cats from escaping.’
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Those workers – daughters, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, nieces – were deemed less valuable than cats, and far less valuable than the chemicals, the machinery, and the slippers in the building.
None of this is new. The state can “investigate quickly” if it likes, and the trade unions can protest “working conditions,” but the factories and sweatshops go up, the bars and grills cover the windows and doors are locked from the outside, the flammable materials are next to the welding machines, and no one does anything … until the fire explodes.
From the Shirtwaist Triangle Factory in 1911 New York, to the Kader Toy Factory in 1993 Bangkok, to the Zhili Handicraft Factory in 1993 Shenzen, to the Tazreen Fashions Factory in 2012 Dhaka, and now to the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in 2015 Manila, the architecture is the same, as are the smoke, stench, exploitation, workers and bosses. The factory wasn’t a factory; it was a slaughterhouse. When the flames burst and the women workers’ bodies exploded, there was no accident. There was an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people, a massacre, and it was always part of the plan.