The French Labor Reform Resistance

2015 in Paris ended with riots over the ecological destruction sham of COP 21. 2016 entered with a state of emergency, with government plans to revoke the French citizenship of dual nationals. This also came with increased power to cops and administrative authorities, including house arrests and searches without warrants. But insurrection in the air was also building…

At the start of March, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the French government unveiled a set of labor reforms, Loi de Travail, that would vastly decrease workers’ rights. The bill proposed reforms which would change France’s 35-hour work week, allowing great reductions in hours and an increase to 46 hours maximum a week. Firms would have greater control to reduce pay and lay off workers. Employers would also have heightened ease reducing holidays, holiday pay, and paid leaves.

Workers and students responded by taking the streets in a popular social movement, attacking the state through decentralized protests and action. On March 10th over half a million stood against the labor reforms and police repression. “Stop stamping on our right to a future,” one banner in the southern port city of Marseille read. “This bill is supposed to help hiring but all I see is that it helps dismissal,” said student Bouchra Jellab. The global media instituted a blackout on coverage, as common for any radical form of resitance or movement. While the streets of Paris burned, the American news media broadcasted 24 hour coverage on the death of Prince that lasted for weeks.

Protests continued widely in March and April, with regular clashes against the pigs. Using increased actions of repression allowed by the state of emergency, the state attempted to block protests and ban specific people from them. The people ignored this and continued fighting. Police brutality was common and those battling against the state responded with molotovs and paint bombs, smashing and burning vehicles, establishing occupations and squats, marching with numbers in the hundreds of thousands, destroying luxury businesses, and building blockades.

“It’s not just the demonstrating but also the strikes indicating that workers, the unemployed, students and high-school students are all opposed to anything that will change the kind of working conditions and the kind of labour laws that France has known for decades,” said one participant.

The Nuit debout also formed during this time and became an occupation reminiscent of Occupy from 2011. General assemblies were held, structures were built, pirate radio and TV stations were aired, and a community was formed. On the twelfth day of the occupation, the Place de la République occupation was brutally evicted by the pigs, but the Nuit debout continued in protests and actions.

In May and June protests in the streets continued, with over two million people out one day in June. Meanwhile, massive nationwide strikes increased. Oil strikes caused 1 out of 5 gas stations to face fuel shortages. Nearly 10% of stations ran completely out of fuel. Protestors blocked deliveries from at least half of France’s 8 refineries, with some blockades holding off trucks and pigs with flaming piles of tires and scrap. After the CGT nuclear workers union joined the rolling nationwide strike, French nuclear power capacity was cut by at least four gigawatts. Railway workers joined, significantly lessening the number of trains running. Rail workers also staged demonstrations, such as at the Montparnasse train station, chanting and throwing smoke bombs. Paris metro workers then struck, crippling public transport. Only 60% of high-speed trains and between a third and a half of other services were running as of June 2nd. Garbage-collectors and sewer-workers joined the resistance too, leaving mounds of uncollected trash throughout the streets.

Following its history of corruption, in July the French government passed the labor reform bill, bypassing parliament in the process. This is just another instance of increased government repression worldwide. But the resistance is growing too! From France, to Oaxaca, to Chile, people are responding to state and corporate repression by taking to the streets in militant resistance, building infrastructure and community, and fighting apartheid, colonization, heteronormative patriarchy, environmental destruction, and the wicked wills of the state.

The resistance will continue and grow! Solidarity with France! Freedom for Kara!

For a view from someone on the streets in France during the time Kara was arrested, including talk on the arrest of Kara, check out the blog “La Serveuse.

“Lawyers said publicly that the case rested on an empty folder, and that the four were being targeted at random, because of their individual records. The only evidence in the case was to be a testimony from one RG (French intelligence services). Indeed, the prefecture of police released a statement on Thursday detailing that the four were ‘known to them from antifascist groups’, as if this were, in itself a crime.”