Do Strikes Work Any More?Posted: November 19, 2012
We all saw the news last week about the strikes around Europe. Pictures and videos of clashes with police in riot gear. People marching with signs. Tires burning on street corners. Buses and trains at standstill. Small mom and pop shop owners wondering whether they should close their doors for the day or stay open and deal with threats from demonstrators.
We didn’t cover the strike as it happened in Barcelona, and some of you have asked us why we didn’t write about it here. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to, and we certainly couldn’t ignore the news even if we tried.
Truth is, we’re not really sure how to cover these protests. Right, they’re news events, but we’re not focused on covering one-off events like a newspaper or TV station would. We’re more selectively filtering the news of the day and asking ourselves and others, “What impact did that news event have on youth unemployment? How did it help a young person get a job?”
Almost besides the point but worth noting, in Barcelona, we’ve seen many, many demonstrations these last few years as the crisis drags outs and austerity measures keep knocking back a once-robust social system and squeezing working-class families. Some protests have brought out hundreds of university students and professors. Others have seen tens of thousands of young people, parents with strollers and seniors citizens peacefully gather in the central plaza. And, yes, a few protests have had a definite anarchist feel with pent-up rage bubbling up and over the edge of self-control. At some point, though, these demonstrations all start looking the same – they are each impressive in their own way, but also now have become sort of routine occurrence in a country where there seems to be no end in sight for tough economic times.
Of course, we know that strikes have historically brought about important global changes in labor conditions and work-related legislation. We also recognize that people frustrated with the political response to the ongoing financial fallout need a place to raise a collective voice, and legally-called, multi-national strikes provide a platform for that outrage.
Even so, it’s hard to watch the violence of the most recent uprisings that swept through Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Belgium and other parts of Europe and a similar one in Spain on March 29 and think that these demonstrations will change anything any time soon. We don’t think people should give up the fight either; the big problems we’re all facing globally won’t go away by themselves.
But, much like the Associated Press, we can’t help but wonder — Europe Strikes: What might they accomplish?