Today we will talk about the 1st of May and the great importance of this public holiday in the Spanish labour calendar.
As is well known, the 1st of May is known as Labour Day. Worldwide this day is focused on the recognition of workers’ labour rights, although in some countries it is celebrated on a different date.
The international origin of this day can be traced back to the workers’ movement of the 19th century. The aim of the movement was to improve working conditions and reduce the long workday.
This workers’ movement, which was marked by the industrial revolution, commemorated the great strike in Chicago in 1886, which demanded an eight-hour working day. Up to that time, labourers used to work 12 to 18 hours in factories.
This first demonstration was followed by others over the next few days and months.
It was not until three years later when it was established that 1 May would be the international day to commemorate the achievement of the eight-hour workday.
Although May 1st had been celebrated in Spain since the years after 1886, it was not established as an official holiday until 1931. This holiday was banned by Franco’s regime and was not reinstated in Spain until the arrival of democracy in 1978.
In Spain the workers’ movement has a big trade union meeting in Plaza de Colón in Madrid. May 1st is usually a day of demands for the improvement of workers’ labour conditions.
Madrid, unlike other cities in Spain, has historically always been the nerve centre of the struggle for labour rights. Alongside Madrid, also in other cities, like Valencia and Barcelona, demonstration for the improvement of labour right usually take place.
This day, like usual, different streets of Valencia city centre will be closed to make way for the trade union demonstrations. Plaza de San Agustín usually is the main meeting point from where the demonstration starts (usually at 10am). Among the demands of the trade unions are wage increases, the containment of prices that are raising for to inflation, as well as the fight for gender equality.
Besides, the trade union movement also ask for a reform of the pension system and the end of temporary and precarious working contracts. This year some trade unions’ slogan is “Raise wages, lower prices, share profits” and “Build to Win”.
Although all these trade union movements may seem alien to us, it is important to get to know them and to understand that they are part of the Spanish society. To learn a language is to get to know a country’s culture, traditions, as well as part of its politics in such a way as to have a global vision of it.
Closely related to the trade unions’ demands, is the study by the CIS (Centro de Investigación Sociológica) that shows how the problems of Spaniards have evolved over the decades. In this respect, the main problem of Spaniards is the unemployment, which has topped the list since the 1980s. This is followed by economic problems, which are closely related to the above, as since the 2008 crisis this concern is still on Spaniards’ minds.
These issues are followed by corruption, which in 2011 was one of the main concerns for the 44% of the population and which has been now replaced by politics. So much so that Spaniards have stopped believing in politics, that 50% of the population in 2020 considered politics to be the main responsible for many of the country’s problems.
In addition to these factors, independence of Catalonia, violence against women, pensions, housing, healthcare and immigration are among the main issues for the Spanish population.