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(en) Anarchist Union Reverses Firings at Port of Barcelona Through Militant Strike by IWW International Solidarity Commission
Fri, 23 Feb 2018 10:22:31 +0200
Dockworkers and members of the CNT, a revolutionary anarchist union in Spain, have won a
complete victory after just 1 day on strike, forcing the company to rehire 3 workers it
had attempted to fire. ---- "THIS IS HOW SOMEONE GETTING FIRED ENDS in the
@portdebarcelona. Picture for the history books. Strike committee and fired workers
(REINSTATED today) walk out with signed agreement." @cnt1910 @PortuariosCNT
https://t.co/rKiKmExs71 ---- - ellisonfitz (@EllisonFitz) February 16, 2018 ---- Causes of
the Strike, Context ---- The CNT branch at the Port of Barcelona called for a 3-day strike
beginning on February 15th in order to force the company to re-hire 3 of its members who
had been fired for refusing to do work outside of their job description. After just 1 day
on strike, they have forced the company to cave.
The company and the union had previously come to a preliminary agreement to reinstate
these three workers, but during a meeting on February 12th, the company tore up the
agreement without warning. The workers had warned the company that they would not back
down, and they didn't. The union immediately walked out and gave the green light to a
3-day strike, which was ratified by a workplace assembly the next day.
I love the smell of victory for the working class in the morning,@SouthernWobbly
@_IWW"AGREEMENT SIGNED!! Strike hereby called off. When they opened a disciplinary
investigation we warned them on the co's walls. 15 days later, and after 1 day on strike,
we've won. REINSTATEMENT!" https://t.co/a9oa68kqlk
- ellisonfitz (@EllisonFitz) February 16, 2018
The strike gained strong support from many unions, social movements, and even a few
political parties in Barcelona, and began with a strong show of support on Thursday
morning. All it took was one day, and the company caved, with the union declaring complete
Context in Spain
Spain's labor law has deep roots in the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Compared to
the US, workers have some more protections. However, strikes in Spain are only legal when
called by a union, and the reformist unions in Spain are even more closely tied to the
state than they are in the US, through funding and subsidies. They do everything they can
to drown discontent through bureaucratic paperwork. Workers who strike without a union can
be easily fired, a severe threat in a country with some of the highest unemployment in Europe.
The CNT, on the other hand, promotes strikes and direct action as tools of struggle, and
also believes that struggles should be managed in workplace assemblies rather than by
union bureaucrats. Since the economic crisis in 2008 ruptured Spain's welfare state, the
business unions have led workers into one defeat after another, while the CNT's militant
model has led to a long string of successes and growth alongside militant independent
groups such as "Las Kellys," a group for hotel cleaners who have successfully organized to
resist attempts by the business unions to negotiate bad deals on their behalf.
Desde #Alicante #LasKellys de #Benidorm anunciaron que se suman al #10FYoVoyPor los
compañeros de #Correos, por @ridersxderechos... Y por las mujeres, también
#HaciaLaHuelgaFeminista!#10F #NoMasPrecariedad @nomasprecario #LeyKelly
- Las Kellys (@LAS_KELLYS) February 9, 2018
Role of the Dockworkers During the Catalan General Strike
The CNT branch at the port of Barcelona has an exemplary history of struggle, both within
the workplace and in the broader society. They established themselves at the port through
fierce and relentless struggle over workplace issues, and the latest threat from the
company was in fact an attempt to get them to negotiate away an earlier victory.
They also played an outstanding role during the recent government repression in Catalonia
and the anarchist-led General Strike which followed. When the government began trying to
sneak police into the port through disguised cruise ships, the CNT dockworkers refused to
dock the ship, and alerted the rest of Barcelona to the threat.
Un símbolo de la represión del Estado sale ahora por la bocana del @portdebarcelona . No
dejemos que arraigue en nuestra tierra. Adelante trabajadores hosteleros!!!!
- Portuaris CNT (@PortuariosCNT) November 16, 2017
They continued to report on the militarization of the port, and agitate port workers to
struggle against it. The government and employers certainly took note of this and may have
been aiming to repress them.
When the anarchist and independent unions in Catalonia called for a general strike to
protest against the repression, the workers at the port of Barcelona held an assembly and
voted unanimously to join the strike. This may have been one of the workplaces where the
strike had the biggest impact.
Els estibadors de BCN, reunits en assemblea, hem decidit per unanimitat secundar la vaga
general del 3-O. Per la dignitat i els drets civils pic.twitter.com/zRptqBib91
- OEPB (@CoordinadoraBCN) October 2, 2017
Dare to Dream
Stan Weir, himself a dockworker from Oakland and a supporter of militant unionism on the
Spanish waterfront, always said that firing should be thought of as "economic corporal
punishment." Firing is the ultimate power that an individual employer has. In many
workplaces, there's no recourse, when you're fired, you're gone - something we've all
experienced. In a workplace with a business union, you might get an official to file a
piece of paper, and months or years later, your case might get discussed by a bunch of
officials sitting around a table, with no connection to the struggles at that workplace.
What we need are unions that know how to keep their struggle at the point of production,
run by the workers, and that aren't afraid of using militant tactics to win.
The CNT branch at the port of Barcelona are a great case study of what the CNT is doing
right by combining militant and resilient workplace organization with a commitment to
broader working-class struggles against capitalism, and ultimately to libertarian
communism. By doing this, they have been able to play an increasingly significant role in
helping to unify and spread working-class struggles in Spain. Victories at individual
workplaces, such as the port of Barcelona, can have a huge effect on the confidence of
workers to engage in larger struggles, which can then give a sense of strength to the
day-to-day organizing in workplaces and communities.
We'll see the other side of this coin during the Feminist General Strike on March 8, which
the CNT is working with autonomous feminist groups to organize across all of Spain.
Crucially, because the CNT is a union, they are able to legalize the strike and protect
anyone who will take part. There is significant mobilizing happening for this, and it
could be a huge step in Spain and a great example for the rest of us.
Batera Gelditu - Elkarrekin Aurrera Egin
Paramos Xuntas - Xuntas Avanzamos
Paramos Juntas - Juntas Avanzamos
Parem Juntes - Juntes Avancem
Folga Xeral / Greba Orokor / Huelga General / Vaga General #FEMINISTA#8M #CuentaConCNT
- CNT oficial (@cnt1910) February 11, 2018
There is a lot we can learn in North America from combining this approach of day-to-day
organizing in workplaces and communities with a commitment to anti-capitalism and broader
working-class militancy. We have to show that we have a real strategy to win immediate
gains and build power for bigger ones. The recent strike at Burgerville is a great example
of where to begin.
Juntas paramos - juntas avanzamos!
Let's shut it down together - let's advance together!
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