“It bears repeating that corporations do not feel free to poison us, sell us spoiled meat, lock our daughters up in ninth-floor sweatshops with no fire escapes, employ our underage sons in coal mines, force us to work thirteen-hour shifts without overtime or a break, or call in private armies to fire rifles at those of us who dare strike for higher wages is not because corporations experienced a moment of Zen and decided to evolve. No. They were forced into greater accountability and social concern by the legitimate actions of a democratic government. In other words, if we depend on good will, we are all screwed.
Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, I saw ample evidence all around me of just how vulnerable hardworking people are in the face of corporate indifference. In 1957, when I was barely a teenager, the Franklin Street fire claimed the life of my friend’s mother. Fifteen people died in that fire because they couldn’t escape the smoke and flames. A fire escape was locked, and the ladder would not extend to the ground; there had been no fire drills, and doors opening the wrong way, blocking exits. It was a disaster, and it happened down the street from my house.It is impossible to be an eyewitness to events like that and not be touched by the gravity of our responsibility to one another.”