Last Friday, May 6, the explosion of the cooling towers of the La Robla thermal power plant meant farewell to one of the mining district’s iconic landscapes. Its demolition was seen by a significant portion of the Leonese as yet another symbol of the decline of their territory, which had been hit hard by the reconversion of mining, which had not yet had an effective Just Transition.
The median age of León at the latest census is 49.74 years, which is the third oldest in the country after Zamora and Lugo, which are over 50 years old, while the median age in Spain is 44.09 years. The loss of the León population worsened after the 2008 crisis, and this year 2022 started with less than 450,000 inhabitants. In the last five years alone, it has lost more than 20,000 inhabitants. Here are some of the updates on the León riots that historically mobilized thousands on the streets of León, Ponferrada and Villablino in February 2019 demanding reindustrialization measures.
The 2020 protest, organized by the UGT and CCOO unions, demanded that the institutions address the “critical” situation in the province. The answer was the so-called Table for León, formed by the Council of the Province of León, the Regional Council of Bierzo, the regional government of Castile and León and the central government, whose main achievement was the approval of a logo about which little is known. In these massive demonstrations, according to the trade unions, from 80,000 people, which the sub-delegation reduced to 48,000, representatives of all parties took part, with the support of even the national leaders of the UGT and KKOO.
Following the passage of the pandemic and several impactful initiatives, union leaders CCOO and UGT in León, Josep Vega and Enrique Reguero, announced that they are taking to the streets again in the face of the “emergency” in the province, with the support of new organizations such as USO, CGT. “If you want to deal with the situation and not split the country, you must make special efforts to resolve the situation from the center,” they pointed out, referring to the poor economic and demographic data of the northwestern provinces, led by Leo. Selected date, Thursday, May 12, after an hour-long stoppage of work and protest in the streets of León, Ponferrada and Villablino.
The unions’ list of grievances against León includes various reasons for mobilization: an “unfair” energy transition, lack of infrastructure and projects, deteriorating public services, loss of financial autonomy, “commitment” to the tourism sector. and agri-food, job insecurity and economic exclusion, neglect of the elderly, increased centralism, territorial invisibility, the need for exceptional instruments of economic development and social pressure as the only solution.
The new call for mobilization opened a wound between institutions and trade unions, criticized by the President of the Provincial Council of León Eduardo Moran (PSOE) for their call and who two years later, immediately after learning about the new round of protests, announced a new management model for the Mesa -por-Leon to try to revive it and make it executive. The table had €161,722, of which Diputación and the Junta de Castile and León allocated 50% for the preparation of the Provincial Strategic Plan 2021-2030, which was not known to the public until May 2022.
Discomfort over the situation in Leon coincided with a noticeable revival of Leonese sentiment, which supports the split of the province or the Leonese region (together with Zamora and Salamanca) as part of the 18th autonomy of Spain. The success of the Leonese UPL party in the last electoral appointment, a tripling of the results, raised concerns among the PSOE and PP, which saw the 2020 protest filled with Leon flags and declarations of autonomy, compared by the councilor of the Junta de Castile y León to the Ciudadanos with Catalan separatism.
The instructions for the fight for your province for the upcoming May 12, prepared by the organizers, indicate the measures for joining the strike. Firstly, to suspend labor activity for an hour, while asking the retail and hotel business to also lower the ladders of their premises and not allow customers. They also ask not to consume during this hour, not to use public transport, not to use the bank, ATMs and online shopping. Students are asked not to go to class and stay in the courtyard for an hour or attend meetings called by student groups.
The May 12 strike is a prelude to a new mobilization in the autumn, when the unions do not rule out a general strike day in León if the administrations do not take action to resolve the situation in the province.
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