If you have an image of a person who is an old school Communist mayor and trade unionist in Andalucía the chances are you would come up with a description of Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo.
He is also an MP in Andalucía’s Parliament for the far left Izquierda Unida and a professor in Spanish History. His union, the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadoes (SAT), has stated it is very satisfied that the Andalucía High Court – Tribunal Superior de Andalucía – has filed two cases brought against him. Had he been found guilty he would have had to resign as an MP.
The case against Sánchez Gordillo, who is also mayor of Marinaleda in Sevilla province, related to his acts on the picket line during Spain’s General Strike on March 29 of last year.
Manuel Rodríguez Guillén, speaking after the court’s ruling for SAT said the judicial decision showed that the actions taken by this union are “non violent” and that its members on the picket line had limited themselves to giving out information on the reasons behind the general strike.
It was claimed that Sánchez Gordillo had made threats to workers but Rodríguez Guillén pointed out that SAT was a “peaceful union” and that in all the years of its history “it has not harmed anyone.”
He added: “There may have been some commotion on the part of the picket or a scab in the heat of the moment but always the union has acted in a peaceful manner.” It is alleged that one of those who brought the case against Sánchez Gordillo had presented a “manipulated” sound recording of events and this had been taken in to account by the judges.
Sánchez Gordillo hit the Spanish news headlines in August of last year when the SAT union took food from two supermarkets in Écija and Arcos de la Frontera. The removal of the items was carried out openly and the food was then distributed to the needy. The supermarkets involved did not press charges.
Sánchez Gordillo not only looks like a traditional Spanish man of the left but the union is also a throw back in time. In this modern age which has been fully grasped by Spain since the death of Franco the SAT speaks for the agricultural workers of Andalucía.
Its members are the day workers and the labourers whose way of life has not changed for a century. They are the hardest hit by the economic crisis. Many rural communities are dependent on their income, often in subsidy form, and when that is withdrawn they have nothing.
Hence it is not surprising that when SAT occupied the unemployment office in Ronda last week the police agreed to take no action as long the protestors did not interfere with the work of the staff and left at closing time. Just up the road in the village of Arriate, SAT members occupied the town hall of this strongly Communist-socialist community with 200 locals in support.
Sánchez Gordillo speaks for the traditional Andalucía rural workers and their embattled families, regardless of their politics. However with unemployment at over 26 per cent and the youth jobless at over 56 per cent – the highest rates in the EU – Spaniards have realised that the mayor of Marinaleda and SAT also speaks for them.
(The above article appeared in the London Progressive Journal on February 14 2013)