Sometimes they may not be in the front row, or they may not be well known, but they are indispensable pieces for many others. “Normal” people who have nothing normal. Who do the extraordinary, improving the lives of others and leaving a mark in their wake. Also a great emptiness when they leave, like the one felt this Thursday by those who knew Alicia Gómez Benítez. “History with capital letters is written by the personal and collective histories of individuals”, wrote his friend Professor Antonio Baylos at his loss. Retired labor lawyer from the CCOO, her early death at the age of 68 has unleashed numerous condolences and messages of affection, but also vindication of a key professional (although unknown) in many labor lawsuits. For example, in the battles, and later victories, of the dismissed workers in the ERE of Coca-Cola and Telemadrid, among others.
“He was a person who is on the front line with the workers. Suffering with them and that is always there when conflicts become entrenched, judicialized and last one, two or even five years, as was our case at Coca-Cola”, explains Juan Carlos Asenjo, one of the best-known faces of ‘Coca -Cola in Fight’.
With Enrique Lillo at the helm, the CCOO legal office took the soft drink multinational to court and won for applying a fraudulent ERE that led to a long legal battle. And there was also Alicia Gómez, a less public figure, but “brilliant”, several specialists in labor law agree.
“For me, she was the example of lawyers committed to defending the rights of workers. Very brilliant jurists who put their knowledge and experience (of which there were many) at the service of the workers and the ideas they defended”, says Mari Luz Rodríguez, professor of Labor Law at the University of Castilla-La Mancha. “Legally brilliant and ideologically consistent,” she emphasizes.
Coca-Cola, Telemadrid and other struggles
From CCOO Madrid, where he began his career providing his services for the Wood Union, this Thursday they recognized his career path for years in the union industry sector. At the end of her career, after a leave of absence in which she worked at her brother’s law firm, specialized in criminal law, Alicia Gómez returned to CCOO, but now to the Interfederal Legal Cabinet. “A place where the quality of lawyers is really put to the test because very important collective cases arrive,” recalls Antonio Baylos.
Among the best known causes in which he participated, the conflicts of Coca-Cola, Telemadrid or that of Plata Meneses stand out. Also many of illegal assignment, among which Enrique Lillo highlights “the case that he beat Zardoya Otis, who established jurisprudence in the Supreme Court with an important conviction of the company.”
“Alicia was a special person, not only because of the way she exercised the law but also because of the personal treatment,” says Luis Lombardo, who was president of the works council at Telemadrid when the management applied an ERE declared inadmissible by the Supreme Court. “Not only did he take the case for you, he accompanied you throughout the fight, he looked for the necessary turns to change something that seemed written… He gave you hope,” summarizes Lombardo, who highlights his “huge smile” and “vehemence” to defend their positions.
“Brave” to turn what is written
Workers and specialists in labor law highlight, above all, “the courage” of Alicia Gómez. “As a person, but even more so as a lawyer,” explains Enrique Lillo, her partner and friend for years. “She was very forward. I am too, but she was even more so, ”says the historic CCOO lawyer. “She was more combative. She said: ‘This has to be done and it has to be done. We have to play it”, recalls Lillo.
He fought complex labor causes, in which on many occasions he made use of his imagination, he took risks, to seek new solutions and interpretations of the norm, without a parachute of jurisprudence behind him. “That is very difficult for lawyers, who do not want to look bad before a judge or lose a case, but Alicia’s commitment made her push forward, look for alternatives, not stop fighting,” says a worker defended by the labor lawyer.
As a person, her acquaintances celebrate her as “a free woman”, a feminist who knew how to assert herself in often very masculinized circles. She was interested in politics since she was young, she was a great defender of democracy, Antonio Baylos points out, “also the internal one in the parties”. Her professor, classmate at the university of Enrique Lillo and Alicia Gómez, highlights her commitment to the freedoms and rights of working people. As a young woman, affiliated with the PCE, later the 15M movement restored her illusion in politics, Lillo maintains. Her son, Miguel Vila, was a deputy for Podemos and she, later, would be a regional deputy with Más Madrid for a time.
This Thursday, from the Marea de Residencias they highlighted her “commitment and generosity”, which led her to write up the complaints of the workers of these centers in the cases against the Community of Madrid led by the lawyer Carlos Vila. “What I feel is that Alicia has left without justice having been done,” replies Luis Páramo, from Marea de Residencias, since the demands have not prospered. Páramo recalls that the workers were sometimes prosecuted for protesting and that they did not have the necessary means to deal with the outbreak of Covid. “He took the case to us without charging a single euro.”
“Very few of the people who have been decisive are later known or recognized by the media,” Antonio Baylos pointed out in the farewell article to his friend. “Many people who have been essential to bring democracy and freedoms are not recognized, and they make history,” the professor told elDiario.es.
For many people, it marked their daily stories, their lives. “I am left with the happiness that was reflected on his face when we won the Supreme Court and we had a meal to celebrate it in the Fuenlabrada camp,” recalls Asenjo, from Coca-Cola en Lucha. “His happiness for him was not only because of the judicial victory of the union. It was ours, that of each family of workers with whom he had been all that time, ”he emphasizes.