can be This specific the Last Year for Strikes in France?
PARIS — Spring in France can be strike season — not of which strikes don’t happen at different times of the year, although who wants to strike in wet, cold weather or within the midst of a hot Parisian summer when everyone (strikers included) wants to be on holiday?
René Bodiou, a 75-year-old using a full head of white hair, smiled as he marched with fellow retired union members within the late May sun at a recent protest. I fell in step with him along with asked what he thought about This specific year’s strike season.
“Nowadays, we have people who are too rich,” he said. “within the United States you do not care so much about equality, although we care about of which.”
“of which does not mean we all have to contain the same amount of money, although we all should get the same respect,” said Mr. Bodiou, a retired civil engineer.
although, he added, summing up a feeling of which seemed to be shared by many on the street around him: “Macron does not speak to those who are poor, who sleep on the ground; he speaks to the people within the digital world, to the entrepreneurs, to the educated.”
Several hundred thousand union workers have taken to the streets of France This specific year. although President Emmanuel Macron has said he would certainly not be deterred coming from his cornerstone policies to tip the balance of power within the working world toward employers along with away coming from unions as part of his effort to create more jobs.
Railway workers are the latest in his sights because they enjoy privileges of which are generous even by French standards, including the right to retire as early as age 52 along using a job for life of which can be virtually guaranteed. Mr. Macron has proposed legislation to end the generous terms for brand new employees. Most French workers cannot retire before age 62.
The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, had approved stripping the railworkers of their benefits in April along with the Senate approved a similar measure in June. although the chambers must reconcile the two versions.
In response to the efforts to change the law, the four railroad unions staged the biggest strikes This specific spring among organized labor, slowing train service across the country along with holding protests in cities coming from Paris to Marseilles along with Nantes to Lyon.
I spent several days This specific spring going to the protests to try to gauge the strength of the union cause, along with by extension of which of the unions’ leftist allies.
The protest Mr. Bodiou attended in Paris on the last weekend in May started out, as do many union marches, at the Gare de l’Est, or Railway Station of the East.
of which can be one of Paris’s most magnificent 19th-century train stations, a soaring public monument of iron along with glass; trains leave coming from here for Strasbourg in eastern France along with then head on to Germany. of which was also the station where, during World War I, soldiers piled onto the trains of which took them to the Western Front, where many were slaughtered.
Like so much in Paris, the railway station can be a place where the past echoes within the present, if you listen hard enough.
For the strikers, too, the past casts a long shadow, not least because many had hoped of which within the face of Mr. Macron’s defiance of nearly eight decades of pro-union labor policies, people would certainly clamor for a return to the days when unions were seen as protectors of the ordinary worker.
This specific year, though, instead of joining them, nonunion members seem to be barely willing to tolerate the inconvenience of the train workers strike.
Yet for those who have worked on the rails, repairing them, running the signal system, taking tickets or driving the trains, Mr. Macron’s plan can be not just a loss of money or retirement benefits, although a demotion within the hierarchy of workers. Railroad workers had lived in a special state of grace along with even had a special statute to legislate their terms of work, along with at This specific point of which was being erased.
Several strikers said people did not understand the political implications of the reforms being pushed by Mr. Macron, not just for the railways although for everyone.
“If he can take This specific away coming from us, he can take benefits coming from everyone,” said Christian Boumard, a union member who came coming from Nantes for an earlier railway protest.
Despite the sense of shouting into the wind, at least This specific spring, the protests still had a festive feel, a lingering hopefulness.
In May, friends greeted one another along with people stopped along the route for the traditional sandwich of Moroccan merguez sausage on a baguette, which has become a staple of left-leaning protests in a sign of solidarity with many immigrant workers who came coming from the Maghreb region of northwestern Africa.
coming from the open back doors of union vans driving along with the crowd, a union loyalist led the marchers in chants.
“The truncheon’s blow can be free; the university also must be.”
“Macron can be screwed; the railroad workers are within the street.” (of which rhymes in French.)
“Public, private, solidarity, of which can be all together of which we must struggle; of which can be all together of which we will win.”
Occasionally a smoke bomb would certainly plume into the air using a bang, along with here along with there people lit flares. although there were not as many as at a union-only protest in March, when the anger was palpable along with the flares looked like a line of smaller fires scattered along the route as if to jolt passers-by into paying attention.
In May the mood was lighter.
People set up stands selling T-shirts reviving some of the slogans coming from 1968. At another table was a collection of red-covered books — a coloring associated with socialism along with communism. There were the classics of Karl Marx, “The Commune of Paris” along with “Value, cost along with Profit,” as well as his landmark collaboration with Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” along with Lenin’s “Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”
Farther along was a table selling homemade drinks made with fruit along with rum coming from Martinique, a Caribbean island of which remains part of France.
The leftists who marched ahead of the union men along with women seemed to date coming from an earlier era. They called for all workers to unite along with sang the “Internationale,” the communist anthem. Many brandished signs of which said “Stop Macron.”
Ecologists handed out green fliers urging people to save the Earth, along with pacifists — young affluent types along with aging hippies — urged peace.
One older woman, wearing a long skirt of which twirled as she spun around, waved a red flag as she marched. She looked as if she were going to dance all the way to the 1930s Spanish Civil War — one of the great leftist causes of an earlier age. Except of which war can be over along with today’s equivalents are even more treacherous.
The May march was smaller than the ones earlier within the spring. along with the number of workers participating within the strikes has dropped coming from a high of about 35 percent in March to about 14 percent in June.
of which seemed of which everyone knew the great era of the French street was slipping away. Prosper Hillairet, my French teacher, had stopped by the demonstration, as so many people do when of which’s a nice day. “I had the feeling,” he said, “of which was the last dance for them.”
Tanguy Garrel-Jaffrelot contributed reporting.