Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian
It was held by the miners of Valdarno, a month spent tightening their belts to earn the right to their daily “panino”.
Dario tells the story, which he learned of three years ago, when together with Enzo Brogi, Regional Counselor and former mayor of Cavriglia, it was decided to give honor to the story and to republish the precious booklet “La Miniera” by Luciano Bianciardi, with an addendum by Romano Bilenchi: “Ebbero la mortadella i minatori del Valdarno”.
It was 1947. Negotiations for the renewal of work contracts between the miners and the owners Selt Valdarno were not going well. The workers would gather in their Circoli, Case del Popolo and Società del Mutuo Soccorso (meeting halls) to discuss the issues.
On February 2nd, “Candelora”, the beginning of Carnival, the miners whom had been gathering at the Circolo of Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni decided to start a “white strike”.
Amongst the “indigenous” local miners there were also some “foreigners” from the region of Emilia Romagna. They often had a very fragrant salume between their two slices of bread, which was unknown to the locals: mortadella. That sweet scent would tantalize the appetite of stomachs that for sure didn’t need it tantalized any further. Mortadella was the reason for the dispute.
The miners’ demands were: “transition to the second contingency area, transport compensation for those who lived far away, bicycle tires, a suit and a pair of shoes per year, fifty grams of cheese and two slices of mortadella once a day”. The company answered: “Transport compensation, ten lire a day to compensate those not paid by the piece, yes to a suit and shoes, no to the mortadella”.
No way. War. The beginning of the white strike. The miners lost 200 lire a day depriving themselves of piece work pay, but the company would get only 400 tons of lignite (brown coal) instead of their usual 1800 tons. There was a strong need to produce electrical energy for the factories, for the Reconstruction.
The workers said: “Our highest pay is 700 lire a day for the most burdensome job there is. Every day half of our pay is gone buying bread from the black market (the bread card was still in use), at least give us something to put inside it.” The company would answer: “There are 2500 of you, times 50 grams of mortadella, that comes to 125 kilos per day. It’s too expensive.”
Negotiations were stormy. Minister Romiti was the man who found an agreement between the unions and the company, without bringing in the police. On the 27th of February the first 125 kilos of mortadella were lowered into the wells. Hurray! They earned their mortadella by contract! Carnival was ending and Lent was about to begin, but not for the miners!
The most touching part of this story is that the Circoli of Emilia Romagna (where mortadella is produced), aware of the situation, supported their colleagues for the month of February by sending them loads of mortadella!
When Enzo Brogi, former mayor of Cavriglia, asked Dario Cecchini for a short introduction to the republishing of the booklet, Dario answered: “I’ve got nothing to add if not a deep admiration for our people”.
Miriam Serni Casalini and Dario Cecchini