On March 31 2019, an image (archived here) went viral on social media purportedly showing a “yellow hat” firefighter protest in Spain. Under an image of several men wearing only yellow hats and boots was a caption:
Forget the yellow vests demonstrating around parliament. Here in Spain we have the yellow hats (firemen) demonstrating for a pay rise!
The image, predictably, proved to be quite popular. In turn, readers wondered if the photograph was correctly captioned and recent, and asked about its backstory.
A reverse image search returned largely questionable results. Among those results was a July 2012 blog post featuring the same image and others from what appeared to be a different protest, and yet another. A third July 2012 article mentioned a nude firefighter protest in Spain, but mentioned eight men and included different images.
We also found the image and a second, matching photograph in a July 2012 Out.com piece:
These Spanish, actually, Basque firemen in Bilbao know how to get some attention. While this photo isn’t the MOST current, we needed it on this sweltering summer day.
The guys are ostensibly protesting budget cuts—by saying kiss my ass. We say, “Yes to naked firemen! No to budget cuts, too!”
Another iteration was shared to Twitter in February 2012:
Bomberos de Bilbao desnudos y en huelga. Eh… hace falta ya una huelga, una huelga… pic.twitter.com/6pxVZcIa
— errordesconocido (@errordesconocid) February 16, 2012
The inclusion of additional images led to a broader set of image search results, and an April 27 2006 gallery, including the photograph. An introduction to the gallery reported:
About a hundred firefighters, a score of them naked, gathered before the seat of the Diputación de a Coruña to add pressure to negotiate a collective agreement with the company Veicar SL…
The image shared to Facebook in 2019 was labeled, along with two subsequent photographs:
The firefighters gathered in front of the Diputación [local government] because they believe that it should mediate in the conflict for being the one that manages and finances the activity of these regional parks, along with the Xunta [regional government].
The naked demonstrators carried banners that read slogans such as “Collective agreement now” and “Labor justice”
The image seen on Facebook of “yellow hat” firefighters protesting naked is authentic, but very old. It appeared to have been taken in April 2006 as part of a particularly saucy labor dispute, and it was nearly a decade and a half old by the time it recirculated in 2019.