Monday, March 27, 2006

The Hedonist's Approach to Labor Unrest

Given the Spanish propensity for coming together in large groups (to drink and chat, to protest educational reform, to run with the bulls), you'd think that labor actions would be more dramatic here. They happen alright--I barely made it to my GREs years ago because a rail strike kept all trains from leaving Córdoba for Madrid until midnight, and I nearly lost my hearing in one recent action by airport workers (the strike consisted largely of marching through Barajas blowing police whistles). But in general they don't have the massive impact you see in, say, France.

Aside from the fact that any strike in Spain is bound to feel festive simply because, well, there are people standing around together, the strikers themselves often tend not to seem particularly fired up. How else to explain the fact that upon returning to Madrid tonight I found polite signs in the metro warning me of an upcoming labor action? It seems that the subway train drivers of the city are very unhappy about a "deterioration of working conditions" and a "lack of training"--though on who's training is lacking, they don't say. But the degree of their annoyance is obscured by the decidedly milquetoast approach they're taking. The strike won't run for a full day --just from 7 to 9am and from 7-9pm, and even then, only 50% of the trains will be stopped. And the slowdown won't happen every day either--Tuesday and Thursday of this week, and the first three days of the following week. Which means it will stop just in time for everyone, subway workers included, to leave for their Semana Santa vacations.

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