Today is a General Labor Strike in Spain against labor reform. That’s not to say no one is going to work, but enough so you’d notice. Some small shops and restaurants are closed because they don’t have the personnel to stay open. Even the TV station, Telemadrid, stopped broadcasting.
Most of Spain’s public transportation is partially paralyzed, too, starting from midnight last night. Buses, metros, and regional trains (say they) are offering “Servicios Minimos” or “Minimum Services”. Many lines are only offering one or two bus and metro vehicles per line, causing longer-than-usual delays to go from Point A to Point B. I’ve just heard from a friend that her metro strain was almost empty at Madrid’s “rush hour” this morning, but had to wait 20+ minutes for it to arrive.
So what do these radical, leftist, dope-smoking hippy protesters want, anyway?!?! Answer: They’re angry over the soon-to-be-imposed deep budget cuts and labor reform. Those don’t sound like the reactions by someone who’s “high”, but what do I know. Unemployment is 23% and 50% among young people, both figures are expected to rise. The Labor Reform will make it cheaper and easier for companies to cut wages, lay off workers, and change working conditions by citing concerns over productivity. People observing the strike are demonstrating their necessity, their indispensability in the labor market, that without them, companies couldn’t operate and generate income.
Labor Strikes like this one usually only concern those on the left side of the political spectrum which include most of the labor unions and many Civil Servants. That’s not to suggest that all strikers are Communists, though. Not at all. The vast majority of these people are more akin to Democrats in the United States, but much more energetic, mobilized, and motivated. Many Spaniards, and many Europeans, are more interested in preserving workers rights.
Remember that song by The Beastie Boys, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)“? There are those which might claim it incongruent that (some) people will fight for their right to party, but not fight for their right to sensible working conditions and fair wages. NO ONE wants to be earn a slave’s wage nor be anyone’s B*T*H. One can live pretty easily without partying, but without steady income and a stable job?
Many take all this very VERY seriously – and others do not, of course. All over Madrid you’ll find “29 MARZO HUELGA GENERAL” banners tied to the tops of highway bridge overpasses, stickers all over the metro stations, and even graffiti spray-painted on building walls. (image below) I’ve seen all of these things everywhere in Madrid in the past week or more. There’s no telling how many people will actually turn-out for today’s protest march from the Plaza de Neptuno to the Puerta del Sol, however, but the result may show the true labor climate in Spain. A large turn-out may suggest strong support, obviously, but a low turn-out may suggest people’s fear, indifference, or opposition to the Labor Reforms.
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“A budget expected on Friday is set to feature tens of billions of euros (dollars) in deficit-reduction measures. The cuts are designed to help Spain in its struggles to satisfy both the European Union and the international investors who determine the country’s borrowing costs in the international debt markets, and therefore have a lot of say in whether Spain will follow Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing a bailout.” –EITB