Monday, December 26, 2011

La Fin du Passé Simple

Ce fut quand même utile.

The Screeners' Strike

The strike of airport baggage screeners is over, most of the striking unions having accepted an offer of an annual bonus from management as a reason to call off their walkout. Did the intervention of the government, which sent in police to handle the screeners' job and end the chaos at the airports, weaken the workers' bargaining position? No doubt. As much as the public may dislike the tactic used by the strikers--to disrupt holiday travel--it was probably effective in the short run. In the long run, one may question whether it's wise for unions to antagonize a substantial segment of the public in this way, because it weakens the legitimacy of the union movement.

On the other hand, the government's action was, to my mind, outrageous and a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to strike. Against this, Sarkozy and Fillon invented out of whole cloth a "right to vacation" and used this as a pretext to intervene. This only underscored the stark class divide between the strikers, most of whom were close to the bottom of the wage spectrum, and the people they inconvenienced, those with money enough to enjoy a winter getaway. The statistics relating vacation travel to income are quite dramatic in France, and many at the bottom of the ladder rarely travel far from their homes. So, like the Occupy movements, the baggage screeners' walkout was a warning to the wealthy, and it came from a segment of the population more representative of the have-nots than "the 99%." The use of police to break the streak was probably unconstitutional and surely high-handed, but it seems to have worked.