Sunday, September 26, 2010

La Grève

Last Thursday was the second strike, or la grève duex, this month. And, lucky us, we had front-row seats! The protest march occurred on the street right outside our building. Thousands of protesters gathered up the street at Place de la Bastille, this being the location of the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, and passed our building, then crossed over the Pont Sully bridge to Ile St. Louis before continuing onward down Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Protesters marching on Pont Sully towards Ile St. Louis.
Many French citizens are opposed to President Nicolas Sarkozy's referendum to raise the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two. Pension reform is clearly a hard-sell here. Since the first strike and protest did nothing to thwart the French government's goal of pushing the referendum through to passage in the Senate, the country's civil servants took to the streets again to make sure their desires are heard loud and clear. Woven into the French cultural fabric is the notion that the French government has provided for, and should continue to provide for, its hard-working citizens. Sarkozy says the change is needed because rising life expectancy increases the financial burden on the pension system and it is not sustainable. France currently has the lowest retirement age of any European country, and, if the referendum passes and becomes law, that will still hold true.

As is common during French strikes, life in Paris last Thursday was affected in these ways: Fewer than half the lines on the Paris Metro were working normally, many cancellations occurred at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, and public services such as schools and post offices were closed as state employees took to the streets. Thankfully, Soren's flight home from Frankfurt was one of the few flights that did not get canceled.

The first grève already occurred on the third day of school. Thursday's strike meant that we now have had our second forced vacation day from school. Not that we are complaining. We'll take a free play day anytime. At least the law mandates that schools and transportation systems must give the public forewarning of the date, time, and location of the strike so alternate plans can be prearranged. And anyway, Raelyn and Nola experienced a real-time civics lesson which looked like a protest march, but sounded like a dance party.

These "Sarkozy is a racist signs" are a result of France's recent expulsion of Roma gypsies from their Paris encampments. Apparently, they didn't spell-check before mass-producing the signs.

The media was everywhere. Filming from on top of bus stops. Standing next to us on our coveted high-up perch that was a sidewalk bench. I almost got clobbered in the head by their big video camera and microphone.
I suppose a good time to get sick or injured would be at a protest rally where all of Paris' doctors are present.

Officials have warned recently that the risk of a terrorist attack is at a record high but this protester's HazMat getup might be taking precautions a bit too far.
Commemorative t-shirts for sale. We realized quickly that many aspects of  la grève are similar to a rock concert.
Policeman or French model? I suppose that we won't be seeing this guy at our local doughnut shop.
I can see the trade unions' logic. I too, would want to move full-time to my country home at the young age of 60 with my hard-earned pension supporting me rather than wait until I'm an old, feeble 62 year-old. Sustainability for future generations- who cares?

Our reaction to it all: Same issue, different country. But the U.S. sure doesn't have as much fun getting riled up about Social Security reform. If it did, I would buy a commemorative t-shirt.


1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are worth a thousand words. I expecially enjoyed reading what was on all the t-shirts. They sure know how to rotest, don't they! Thanks for sharing with us.