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The labor movement, which had been a major component of support for the Republican forces in the Civil War, was brutally suppressed after the Nationalists came to power. Vertical syndicates replaced trade unions, and strikes were outlawed (see The Franco Years , ch. 1). Nevertheless, mounting strike activity in the 1960s and the 1970s, which persisted in spite of severe reprisals, testified to the strength of the labor movement, which was a key factor in propelling Spain toward a democratic form of government.

The political changes that swept through Spain in the wake of liberalization were not accompanied by commensurate changes in social and economic conditions. One of the reasons for this was the labor movement's reluctance to voice strong criticisms of the governing UCD for fear of provoking a military coup. Because of the army's apparent ambivalence toward the nascent democratic system, the parties on the left and the labor movement, which normally would have been expected to agitate for a significant restructuring of the economy and of society, adopted an attitude of cooperation and consensus with the government (see Transition to Democracy , ch. 1). Although this stance contributed to the success of the transition process, it nevertheless had the effect of postponing necessary societal reforms. The consequences of this delay were a salient factor in the labor unrest that reached crisis proportions in the late 1980s.

Decree laws in March and in April 1977 legalized trade unions and introduced the rights to strike and to engage in collective bargaining. The 1978 Constitution delineates the rights of unions to defend their interests. It grants to all citizens, except members of the armed forces and the judiciary, the right to join a union. It also guarantees them the right not to join one. The first major labor legislation enacted under the 1978 Constitution, the Workers' Statute that came into force in 1980, further elaborated the rights of workers. It included guarantees pertaining to a minimum wage and to social security, and it stipulated that labor relations were to be worked out between unions and management, with no direct government involvement. The statute outlined the format for collective bargaining, recognizing the right of the elected representatives of the workers to negotiate on their behalf.

The basic freedoms and rights of unions were given more detailed treatment in the Organic Law on Trade Union Freedom, which went into effect in August 1985. This law spelled out the negotiating role to which larger unions were entitled, and it prohibited any form of discrimination on the part of employers. An earlier government labor statute called for syndical elections to be held every two years, and these provided an indication of the national strength of the labor unions.

The two principal unions were the UGT and the CCOO. The UGT, which was founded in 1888 and which had a long tradition of close ties with the PSOE, was a composite of autonomous local unions, each of which consisted of workers engaged in the same type of activity, who were organized on a provincial or regional basis. The UGT favored the idea of increased power at the local level, and allowed local unions to call work stoppages independently. In the 1982 union elections, the UGT gained a greater share of the vote than the CCOO, which had dominated previous syndical elections.

The CCOO has a shorter history than the UGT, having developed out of locally organized groups of workers that functioned both legally and clandestinely during the Franco dictatorship. Reforms enacted in the late 1950s allowed for the election of factory committees that rapidly evolved into permanent bodies representing the interests of the workers. Although the founding members of this new labor movement were independent socialists and leftist Roman Catholics as well as communists, it was the PCE that emerged as the dominant force within the movement; the majority of leadership positions were held by PCE members.

As these workers' organizations, called commissions, grew in strength and began to proliferate, the Francoist authorities cracked down, outlawing them in 1967. This did not stop their activities. By the time of Franco's death, the CCOO was the dominant force in the labor movement. It subsequently declined in strength, in part because of the PCE's decreased electoral support and the concomitant ascendancy of the PSOE.

Like the UGT, the CCOO was organized into federations of workers, based on the type of work they performed. These groups were in turn linked together as confederations in territorial congresses. A national congress met every other year. The structure of the CCOO was more centralized than that of the UGT; decisions made at the top were expected to be carried out throughout the lower echelons of the union.

The CCOO claimed to be politically independent, but the union had strong historical links with the PCE, and its important leaders were also prominent communists. Communist ideology prevailed, although the union began assuming a tactical distance from the PCE in the 1980s, as the party became weakened by internal divisions and lost support at the polls.

The UGT made no effort to de-emphasize its links with the PSOE. Both union and party frequently reiterated their common aspirations, although there were disagreements between them as well as within their respective organizations. The political ties of both the UGT and the CCOO were salient factors in the rivalry that existed between the two unions.

In addition to these two major unions, other labor organizations remained active and influential in Spain in the late 1980s. The Workers' Syndical Union (Union Sindical Obrera-- USO) was among those that developed in opposition to the Franco regime. Many of its founding members had been involved in the Catholic workers' organizations, and they were strongly anticommunist. At the same time, they sought to replace capitalism with control of production by the workers. Militant in its early days, the USO had evolved into the most politically conservative of the major federations by the 1980s.

A more radical trade union, the anarcho-syndicalist National Confederation of Labor (Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo--CNT), was the second oldest labor organization in Spain; it had been a major political force during the Second Republic. Failing to reestablish its working-class base after the Franco period, it found its principal support among white-collar workers. It boycotted syndical elections as elements of bourgeois democracy and preferred direct action strategies.

Two smaller unions that developed as splinter groups from the CCOO were the extreme left Confederation of United Workers' Unions (Confederacion de Sindicatos Unitarios de Trabajadores-- CSUT) and the United Syndicate (Sindicato Unitario--SU). Both were linked to Maoist political parties; their aim was to present a distinctly radical alternative to the moderation of the major federations. Although they gained some support in the 1978 union elections, their influence has steadily declined.

In addition, there were regional unions, two of which gained sufficient support to qualify for a formal place in negotiating procedures. These were the Basque Workers' Solidarity (Eusko Langilleen Alkartasuna-Solidaridad de Trabajadores Vascos--ELASTV ), which was closely linked to the PNV, and the National Galician Workers' Union (Intersindical Nacional de Trabajadores Gallegos--INTG).

Although trade unions were highly visible and influential in the political process, they all, with the exception of the ELASTV , suffered from small memberships. While studies indicated that less than 20 percent of the wage-earning population was affiliated with a union, even fewer of these workers maintained their dues payments, leaving the trade unions in a financially weak position (see Labor Relations in the Post-Franco Period , ch. 3).

Nevertheless, labor unions continued to maintain a high profile in the political arena. Throughout 1987 and 1988, periodic strikes plagued the PSOE government and disrupted the day-to-day functioning of the country. These strikes had the backing of the UGT. Discontent within the labor movement was dramatized when the UGT leader, Redondo, formerly close to Gonzalez, resigned his seat in parliament in protest against government policies. He gave voice to the widespread feeling that the PSOE's economic policies were benefiting business at the expense of the working class. In October 1987, the UGT and the CCOO agreed to stage joint demonstrations against the government's pay and pension policies, and in December 1988 they staged a general strike (see Political Developments, 1982-88 , this ch.).

Data as of December 1988

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