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Today in Labour History

25 January 1860
Silkworms (Bombyx Mori)
Source: 'Fastily' on Wikimedia Commons

Silk Workers Love Siesta

As of 1854, a crisis in the silk industry due to competition from Lyon and a disease among the silkworms affected the city of Valencia badly. Many silk workers lived at the verge of vagrancy or at the doors of the poorhouse. The terrified Town Council tried to provide work for the unemployed in various public works. But heavy work was not part of the silk workers' tradition. They were used to getting up late and going to the tavern before starting work, they sang and chatted while they worked, had a daily siesta, did not work on Mondays and received an advance on their monthly salary every Saturday. When silk workers employed in road work around Valencia did not receive the usual advance on their wages on Saturday, they stopped working. The reaction of the authorities was particularly severe: the workers were quickly arrested and sent to prison. (Source: Diario Mercantil de Valencia, 25 January 1860)

Read more? Francesc A. Martínez Gallego, 'Working Class Conflicts and Work Discipline in Valencia, 1840-1880' in: A Social History of Spanish Labour (New York 2007)

More info: A Social History of Spanish Labour (IISH Publication)