Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grève générale

(Those must be two important words, because I sure do see them alot. En grève means "On strike")

The French love to strike. Well, that's the stereotype anyway. When George and I came to France for vacation 1.5 years ago, our travel plans were interrupted by a transportation strike. The day before George arrived in France to stay, the pilots were on strike, and when I had to go to Berlin for work the trains were on strike (so we flew). Well tomorrow everyone is on strike.

People are not striking for better pay, or cheaper health care, or shorter hours, and the strikers are not holding out for any negotiations. People are just unhappy with the economic situation in general (and with President Nicolas Sarkozy) and want to make the government focus on creating jobs, reducing income inequality, and regulating banks more closely--things that just about every country in the world is concerned with now. I'd strike with them, but I am out of vacation days.

Strikes in the USA are different. In the US, we do not strike as often, but when we strike we are in it for the long haul. When I was in Seattle, the teacher's strike lasted 49 days, and would have lasted longer I think, except a local judge ordered them back to work. The NHL Player's union striked (struck?) for a whole year. In France, strikes tend to last a couple days at most, and I don't think any have lasted more than a week.

Strikes in the US seem to be more localized too. The Seattle teachers union, the American Airlines pilots, professional basketball players, etc. I don't think we have ever had everyone strike in the US. In fact, I don't think I have ever been personally affected by any strike in the US, other than having to listen to my dad--a member of one of America's most strike loving unions, the teamsters--complain about them (I love you dad!). Tomorrow's strike is supposed to throw the whole country into chaos. If you rely on public transit to get where you are going, you're screwed, and if your kids go to public school, i guess you are taking the day off to watch them since the school is on strike, and so is day-care.

I wonder if strikes are more successful in France than in the US?

(image stolen from

1 comment:

Senegal Daily said...

I stayed home so missed the "parade", but Jonathan went in as usual. I heard it wound up not being as bad as they'd predicted. But I know a lot of people planned to stay home because of kids being home or difficulty commuting.

C'est la vie, eh?