Weak unions and French labor

Fed-up youths pumped their fists in France to protest the new anti-worker law.

The mostly peaceful protests against the First Employment Contract in France have been remarkable. About 1.5 million people protested in more than 150 cities. Classes at two-thirds of the country’s universities were disrupted in protests that literally shut down universities. When was the last time students in the United States believed so much in something that schools were shut down?

The new law encourages companies to employ younger workers because it gives companies the ability to terminate the employment of those younger than 26 without reason or providing compensation for the termination. This institutionalized age discrimination somehow is supposed to provide employers with an incentive to hire more youths, knowing they can toss them when convenient. It ultimately leaves the youths with no form of job security. In a country where one-fourth of the youth are unemployed, a number that is even worse for the immigrant youths population that faces even greater challenges, the new law is dangerous.

When long-term employment was an issue in this country, the labor movements in the 1930s and 1940s created protection for workers. Movements since then have been weak, often undermined by union busting and poor leadership. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is a fundamental right to employment, and equally as important, there is a fundamental right to organize and establish unions.

There remains no uproar to protect those in the meat-packing, poultry and agriculture industries, mainly immigrant workers who not only literally feed this country, but also are subject to dirty and dangerous conditions. Where are the unions? Where was the solidarity with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association strikers late last year? Businesses have been victorious over workers. Cuts in health-care funding, wages, pensions and overall absence of economic security has toppled the many workers in this country.

Is this a world students feel comfortable graduating into? For a population that is unable to organize a consistent and powerful force to stop tuition hikes, the future appears grim.