On 20th November 1964 a group of workers, women and men, from several companies, gathered in the theater attached to the church of Saint Medir, in the Barcelona district of Sants. This event challenged the lack of freedom imposed by the Franco dictatorship, that being the beginning of what we know today as Comissions Obreres de Catalunya (CCOO) (Worker Commissions of Catalonia).
Since 1964, the history of Catalonia cannot be explained without mentioning CCOO. Already in the 60s and 70s, CCOO was organized as a socio-political movement to achieve stable organizations in the different economic sectors. Its strategy was to be inserted in the Franco’s Sindicato Vertical (Vertical Union), the only legal labour “tool” diluted with the management. At that time, people belonging to this organisation were prosecuted and imprisoned by the Franco regime, due to their support to freedom and rights unrecognized by that dictatorship. It is worth pointing out its banning or the process known as “1001”, when the first union leaders were imprisoned.
When the political Transition arrived to Spain, the socio-political movement of CCOO became a trade union confederation, as it was in Catalonia concurrently defined as a class and general trade union. During that time it was an essential part in the organisation of the fight in defence of labour, national and social rights, demanding amnesty and democracy from their workplaces to finally work all together in a common fight. Surely, it would not be democracy in this country without the role all these movements played, notable among them the trade-union one. We shall not forget that Franco died in bed, but Franco regime died in the streets through social struggles with CCOO as a fundamental factor.
Since then, this union trade fights for the improvement of living and working conditions of the working class. Still today, it is a necessary piece to accomplish actions in a national and european level, like through the several general strikes to stop the three labour reforms over the past 8 years.
The exhibition “CCOO: 50 years of history of Catalonia” is part of the 50th anniversary of the trade union founding in Catalonia. It highlights the role of the confederal trade union of CCOO in the construction of the current Catalonia.
In any case, though, the history of the trade union is not told in an institutional way, but it has the aim to explain the history of the Catalan society over the last 50 years through the experiences of the working class of our country and how they combined their personal lives with the labour and union ones. Thus, the trade union evolved in parallel as the social, political and economical history of the country did.
This exhibition and the 50th anniversary celebrations are not a nostalgic revival for CCOO people, but they are the basis of a project of present and future, since class trade unions are still one of the basic pillars in the Catalan society articulation.
Laura Fages Hernández
Translated by Paola López & Raül Gil