Spring means Strikes in Spain — Today: Massive Strike in Barcelona

Today the Supreme Court will be ending its 3-day hearing of a law that serves to make Americans healthier people in a cost effective way.  Opponents of the law are on the steps of the Supreme Court holding banners calling the Affordable Care Act “socialism,” that the government is “butting-in” individual’s rights, and that this “government-takeover” is fueled by greed.

Meanwhile in Barcelona…..


……people are protesting the government’s labor reforms and cuts to social services.  It’s a dichotomy I can’t understand: in my country people are protesting the government’s proposal to give the country something that will make it healthier, more effective, and cost efficient while not making extraordinary changes to the preexisting insurance and health industries.  Simultaneously a few time zones away, people are protesting the prospect that the government take away those social services.

The General Strike has drawn protesters of all ages to demonstrate
Used with permission under the Creative Commons License

Today most of Spain is on strike to protest the budget cuts that are planned to be revealed tomorrow.  The largest protests, in Barcelona and Madrid, were expected to each draw 250,000 people for the 24-hour strike.  The city is largely crippled today; protesters have constructed human and non-human barricades in streets to block vehicles and at train station exits to prevent people from going to work or university.  Most retailers (including bread shops and super markets) are closed.  The strike is expected to last until midnight.

A protester leads a chant
From Flickr user ugtdecatalunya, used with permission under the Creative Commons License

This is the largest in a series of strikes across Spain.  Unions are protesting labor reforms that the government will help the country’s large unemployment (nearly 23%, the worst in the Euro-Zone).

A sign at the mall “29 March CLOSED for the GENERAL STRIKE”
Used with permission under the Creative Commons License

Protests have been held since Rajoy was elected president in the Fall of 2011.  Personally, it’s made my year in Barcelona extremely interesting.  Words like “recortes,” “huelga,” and “manefestación” are words that are now part of my daily-lexicon.  Seeing a protest or public demonstration has become part of a the weekly-routine here: there have been protests regularly on a particular street.

More interesting than a linguistic perspective is a cultural perspective.  The most I’ve learned from these strikes is in conversation with friends and strangers.  Never have I seen a strike so large in the United States during my lifetime.  The most recent massive strikes and protests I can think of would have been race riots (1919, 1967…).  But people are so surprised that with similar budget cuts (medicare, social security, education, etc) in America people aren’t taking to the streets.  When did we loose our fire, America!?  Stand up, shout, use your voice — don’t just slap a bumper sticker on or complacently groan about something via your facebook status.  Let’s learn something from Spain’s struggle and craft our complacency into rhetorical power and creative action!

used with permission under the creative commons license

used with permission under the creative commons license

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