Every morning, I generally do one of two things, immediately brew my coffee and flip on the computer, or I take a little stroll over to our local bread store to pick up a steamy, freshly baked baguette, and maybe, a gooey chocolate croissant. Today, as our bread stash showed only a few crumbs remaining, I quickly fed the cats, donned my gray flannel vest and ran out the door and into the elevator with 3 neighborhood kids looking as if they all needed a shot of espresso. (photo by desislava emilova)
Pushing open the big glass doors and immediately getting hit by a strong delicious wave of yeasty aromas, I greeted my neighbors with a happy, “Buenas Dias”, while scooting to the back of the line, debating if my morning dictated a sinful double chocolate roll.
“Buenas Dias”, all four women sung in chorus, standing in front of the bread counter in the midsts of what appeared to be a very heated debate.
“Have you been stocking up on your fruit? My son told me that we need get as much fruit as we can because soon, we won’t have any if this keeps up!” shrieked the smallest of the four with zebra striped hair.
With hands on her hips, a tall woman in her 40s with stiletto red heels retorted, “I heard the same thing on the radio yesterday, but I doubt it will be that bad. Someone has to stand up to this ridiculous oil monsters, and if I have to have a little less fruit in my diet because of it, I can substitute it for wine!!” This comment, of course, caused a raucous of laughter, as all four women imagined themselves at work with their simple bocadillo sandwich and a bottle of wine for dessert.
And suddenly, from behind the counter appeared a young twenty something clerk with jet black hair and a round red lip piercing that more resembles a sore than an elegant accoutrement, “Yeah, well, that might not work. My grandmother was begging me all last night to buy up her favorite wine all over town, because she’s panicked it’ll be sold out before the strike is over.”
Waiting for the last two women to pay for their round and crusty peasant loafs, I remembered the press release we received from a winery in La Rioja, Lopez de Heredia, warning us that their wines may be delayed as a result DHL’s union members joining the trucker’s strike on June 8th.
A little confused and curious how this would impact both the region and the winery, I immediately called the winery asking for more information. They responded by saying that this wasn’t the first strike they’ve lived through, nor would it be the last, and suggested that I not worry too much about it. So I didn’t. I let it go figuring that the strike is one of many they’ve dealt with, and that the protest was rather common and uneventful.
But over the past few days, what started as something “common” and “uneventful” has now become a major nationwide issue, as reported by the BBC, The New York Times, NPR and every news channel throughout Europe.
The entire fiasco began a few weeks ago when thousands of French fishermen began a nationwide strike against the rising oil prices, which slowly made its way south to the northern Spanish border. Paying upwards around 800 euros a day of which their catch brings in only 1000 euros, Spanish fishermen joined their French and Portuguese mates in a unified effort to lower diesel prices.
Spanish truckers have now joined in the fight against soaring fuel prices, as a result of the 36% price hike on diesel in one year, by blocking highways across Spain, disrupting (and at times, destroying) supplies such as food, gasoline, appliances, and other goods. It’s gotten so bad that two protesters have been killed, one is Spain and one in Portugal, by trucks driving through the picket lines.
90,000 self-employed truckers, alongside drivers who work for small and medium-sized shipping companies, want the Spanish government to establish a minimum price for their services. while ensuring that contracts reflect the fluctuating price of fuel. The Spanish government fears this would violate free market competition.
From my understanding, this is considered the worst labor upheaval since Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero‘s acceptance as the Socialist Prime Minister in 200. So far, 3 auto plants have already suspended their operations for a lack of car parts, while gas stations throughout Madrid and Northern Catalunya have completely run out of fuel.
With the warm bread underneath my arm, I walked home in a pensive state wondering how my old roommate in Madrid was getting on, and whether she was already seeing firsthand the repercussions of the strike. “Yes I am! I went to Super Sol yesterday (a large Spanish grocery chain) and noticed that there were only a few fly infested onions hanging out on the barren shelves, the fish stand was only a quarter full, the refrigerated produce was completely barren along with carrots and lettuce, cheap boxed items had quickly been swiped up, and generally, long lines of people were stockpiling groceries for fear of food shortages.”
As a 32 year old American, I have no concept of what it is like to live through a massive fuel shortage. During the Carter administration, my parents recall the long lines at the gas pump, but I’ve never thought twice about it, especially now that we don’t have a car.
This all leads me to wonder, is this a short term issue like the winery predicted, or if it is what most predict, a glimpse into the consequences of our ever increasing dependency on oil and decrease in reserves? What do you think?