In French big cities — Paris, Lyons, Tours and Nantes — and in 110 communities in all, 170,000 workers and students came out on Sept. 15 to demand repeal of the new labor law, which was pushed through Parliament without a vote and went into effect July 21.
This was the fifteenth national demonstration and strike against the law, the first since summer vacations. Some trains, mass transit and airline flights were impacted by the strike, and some sharp skirmishes were held between demonstrators and the cops, who were very aggressive.
The struggle of French workers against this repressive labor law has won a great deal of international solidarity. Workers’ organizations in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Russia, the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Réunion, the Comoros and Argentina have sent messages of solidarity, according to the CGT, one of five labor confederations.
In Paris, units of the CRS, the national anti-riot cops, blocked many roads to the gathering point, didn’t let unions bring in sound trucks and searched the bags of the 40,000 people who marched. They used tear gas and water cannons to control the marchers. One union member belonging to Solidaire lost his eye due to a tear gas grenade and is charging the cops with brutality.
In Tours and Nantes, where the struggle against the labor law this spring was very intense, the Sept. 15 protests were larger and much more militant than the cops expected.
Since these protests involve losing a day’s pay to strike, and there have now been 15 this year, a debate has opened up in the labor movement about shifting the focus to legal challenges and enterprise-by-enterprise struggles, fighting each set of rules that implements one of the points in the law. While it is not clear how the unions plan to proceed, they are well aware that the polls show seven of every 10 people in France oppose the law.
A date for the next national demonstration hasn’t been set, but the seven unions and student organizations mobilizing for these protests have called for a meeting at the end of September.
The CGT released a statement on Sept. 15 setting out its strategy: “The CGT will continue to fight, on every level, to block the application of this law, point by point, measure by measure, whether it is on the local level, in enterprises with their employees, or nationally before the courts. It intends always to block this wicked law even while having recourse to other axes of mobilization.”