I’m going on strike Tuesday.
If you happen to catch a video of the strike held in Lorient that day, be sure to look for my face in the crowd. I’ll be wearing my brown sunglasses.
A little background:
There have been a number of strikes and protests in France since I arrived here six weeks ago. This has interrupted public transportation and other services across the country. Strikes are, of course, something of a way of life here in France. But there have been an increasing number of strikes, and I imagine that this will go on at least through the end of the year.
Why all the strikes this fall? The French government has recently voted to change the retirement age from 60 to 62. And this is just the beginning, as the government plans to make the retirement later and later over time. The government claims that, unless people begin retiring later, it won’t be possible to continue to maintain retirement funding. Many French citizens do not agree with this. As my friend J the comptroller explains it, the French government could easily afford to pay for it by creating one cent taxes on certain financial transactions, thus taxing the rich and the corporations, one cent at a time, to defray some of the retirement system’s costs. Click here for more info on the retirement issue and recent actions in France.
Ah—if only the retirement age were that early in the U.S.! If only our unions were as strong and as numerous. And if only the American public were equally motivated to get out there and protest.
The retirement age change act has already passed through both houses of parliament, but the people and the unions of this nation have not given up. Hence, the mini-strike and other protests in Lorient and other French cities on Tuesday.
So what does this have to do with me? Well, last week in class, my classmates were talking about the strike, deciding whether they wanted to participate in the strike event in Lorient, the city right next to Ploemeur, where we are. They took an informal poll during break time on Wednesday, and apparently everyone said that they wanted to participate. I was doing something else at that moment, because I hadn’t noticed the conversations going on. Then one of my classmates turned to me.
Classmate: Do you want to go on strike on Tuesday?
Classmate: Everyone in class is planning to attend the strike midday Tuesday. So, if you stay here, you’ll be the only one in class.
So I decided to go on strike with my classmates. No need to force an instructor to teach an individual class for a few hours. And hey, I’m happy to join in, in solidarity with my classmates. Should be an interesting cultural adventure. Maybe we’ll even shout our protests in Breton. And I can’t help thinking that my father, a stalwart union man, would be proud.