In Barcelona, Spain, illegal street vendors have established a union in order to negotiate with the officials of the city. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has supported the move.
The union is being called the Popular Union for Street Vendors. The union says that its purpose is to fight against discrimination, racism and violence from the police.
The illegal street vendors have largely been known for selling counterfeit merchandise, such as knock-off purses and sunglasses. The counterfeit industry is huge worldwide, as other cities like Los Angeles add hundreds of millions of dollars every year to their local economies from the sale of such merchandise.
The densely packed tourist areas of Barcelona have made the city an ideal area for illegal street vendors to operate. The majority of these counterfeit goods sellers are from countries in West Africa. They operate on city corners, with access to quick escape routes when authorities approach them.
However, the government of the city is taking a new approach to the problem. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau believes that the cause of this trend is a poor policy on immigration. Therefore, Colau has largely accepted the establishment of a union for illegal vendors.
The union began its operations by establishing some policies. Members have been told never to engage with police officers, and they have been asked to record acts of violence by the police.
Colau came into office last April. Her administration quickly launched a five-month study to better understand the illegal vendor situation. The resulting report concluded that a social response was needed in the situation instead of law enforcement. Because immigrants are largely excluded from mainstream society, they often end up working in the underground counterfeiting market.
Barcelona’s deputy mayor for social rights Laia Ortiz stated, “These are immigrants in an irregular situation who do not have a regulated alternative means to earn a living.”
Estimates show that roughly 400 illegal vendors operate in the city.
The city has tried various means of combating the illegal vendor problem in the past. One such method involved handing out pamphlets in tourist areas which explained the problem to tourists.
Another campaign was launched in 2012 in order raise public awareness of the economic harm that comes from the sale of counterfeit goods.
Officials from Barcelona say that the city will continue to work on addressing the problem. However, they realize that societal changes might be necessary.