A little bit of history

The 12th of August 1888, twenty six delegates representing forty-four different worker associations –among them, a typographer called Pablo Iglesias-, join at the Hall of the Socialist House in Barcelona, in order to launch the 1st National Workers’ Congress, with the objective of “defending the interests of working people”. The congress finishes the 14th of August with a new name (General Workers’ Union of Spain) and a structure that organizes local unions and industrial federations throughout Spain.

If you are interested in knowing more about UGT or have a look at historic documents, we suggest that you have a look at the English site of the Fundación Francisco Largo Caballero.

Today, the UGT is one of the most important trade unions in Spain. It represents millions of workers from all sectors of production. Apart from the wage-earning workers, UGT also organizes unemployed people, freelancers, executive workers, pensioners, and others.

UGT has not stopped seeking for remarkable improvements within the framework of work and social welfare. It is its vocation to represent the biggest number of people (young people, women, new occupied, excluded, immigrants).

UGT is a founder member of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). Cándido Méndez, secretary general of UGT is currently the President of ETUC within a four year mandate.

Dates and facts

1888: 12th August, the General Union of Workers is founded in Barcelona.

1890: 1st of May if celebrated for first time in Spain

1899: During the 6th Congress, UGT moves its headquarters from Barcelona to Madrid.

1909: 26th of July 26th takes place a General Strike against the Spanish war with Morocco.

1910: Pablo Iglesias is elected Member of Parliament; it is the first time that a worker representing workers is elected in the history of Spain.

1911: First national federations (miners and railway employees) are created. UGT rapidly grows up to 100.000 members. Labour cooperatives, educational centres, and leisure activities… The “Casas del Pueblo” (houses of the workers) blossom.

1917: UGT organizes a general strike in August 10th. The members of the Strike Committee (Largo Caballero, Saborit and Anguiano) are sentenced to life imprisonment.

1919: Largo Caballero and Besteiro participate in the foundation of the ILO.

1921: UGT decides not to adhere to the 3th International.

1925: Pablo Iglesias dies.

1931: Largo Caballero becomes Minister of Employment of the Republic. He establishes the 8 hours working time a day, the minimum wage, labour standards, etc.

1936: UGT calls up to general strike against the “coup d'état” lead by Franco. Civil war starts.

1939: On April 1st, with the victory of the pro-Franco forces, UGT and its affiliates suffer brutal repression. Our trade union starts to work in exile or clandestinely.

1944: I Congress in exile.

1945: Constitution of the first clandestine Executive Committee. UGT participates in the creation of the World Association of Trade Unions.

1949: III Congress in exile. ICFTU is born. UGT is one of its founder members.

1951: IV Congress in exile. Strike in Barcelona against the rising price of tram tickets.

1961: Creation, in May, of the Trade-union Alliance formed by UGT, CNT, and STV.

1962: VIII Congress in exile. Wave of strikes in all Spain.

1971: XI Congress in exile. Three people in Spain (non-exiled and clandestine) enters into the Executive Board of UGT.

1973: XII Congress, the last one that takes place outside of country. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is founded, UGT is a founder member.

1976: 15th April: 30th Congress, the first one which takes place in Spain since 1939.

1977: UGT gets out of COS.

1978: First national trade-union elections in Spain. Spanish Constitution is voted in referendum and it is approved by 87,79 % of the voters.

1981: Colonel Antonio Tejero takes over Parliament in a military coup d'état.

1982: Second trade-union elections. UGT 36,7%, Comisiones Obreras 33,4%, USO 4,6%. Congress begins to study a bill on the reduction of working time (40 hours a week) and 30 days of paid holydays.

1987: Basque terrorist group ETA bombs the "Casa del Pueblo" in Portugalete (Basque country); two brothers from UGT are murdered. Nicolás Redondo (Secretary General of UGT), and Antón Saracibar (Secretary of Organization) give up their seats at Parliament as a protest for the National Budget presented by the Socialist Party (PSOE). For the same reason, Cándido Méndez resigns from his seat in the Andalucian Parliament and Emilio Castro gives up his seat at the Senate.

1988: UGT celebrates its 100 years jubilee. On December 14th the whole country stops because of biggest general strike in the history of Spain. More than 8 million workers strike to the appeal of trade unions against the economic policy of the socialist government.

1989: In February, the negotiations between Government and the trade unions are definitively broken because there is no possible agreement on 4 essential points of demand, which had motivated the general strike of December 14th. On April 25th, the Executive Committee decides not to support the candidacy of PSOE for the European elections. The 1st May is celebrated, for first time in 6 years, together with CCOO. It is the first time that PSOE and the Socialist Youth organisation are not invited.

1994: General strike against a new labour market reform. This is the third one strike during the socialist government mandate.

1997: First demonstration all over Europe in history. On April 28th, trade unions and employers sign the Agreement for the Stability of Employment and the Collective bargaining.

2000: UGT presents the campaign "employment and protection warranties", analyzing the first years of conservative government (Partido Popular), and giving alternatives for improving employment and social welfare in Spain.

2001: UGT organizes a gigantic assembly with activist from all over Spain, against the social policy of the conservative government. During this year numerous strikes turned out to be successful in all activity sectors, student mobilizations, and in the public service.

2002: 38th Congress takes place. A "Fundamental Program", containing ideological bases for the union in the future, is adopted. New general strike against the brutal social and labour policies of the conservative government. The success of this strike obliges the government to overrule their policies and provokes a ministerial change. Teachers and students mobilize, strike, and demonstrate against the Law on the Quality of Education.

2003: Social mobilization and social unrest increase dramatically. UGT starts up a campaign against the Spanish participation in the Iraq War and, following the solidarity found of ETUC, organizes several symbolic 15 minutes stops in companies all over Spain. This campaign ends up in a new general strike, against the economic and social repercussions of that war. Discounts on salaries from this strike are channelled by the UGT to succeed in the boxes of non-profit associations which are loaded with the reconstruction of Iraq.

On May 29th, during the 10th Statutory Congress, ETUC elects Cándido Méndez President of the Confederation for the next 4 years mandate. It is the first time that a Spanish trade unionist occupies a place in the management of ETUC.





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