French Resistance: Emmanuel Macron Facing Days of Protests Over Labor Reforms

French President Emmanuel Macron has a vast majority in Parliament, the backing of other EU leaders impressed with his May defeat of far-right Marine Le Pen, and self-confidence so large that aides have compared his governing style to the Roman God Jupiter.

But as for so many French presidents, out on the streets, it’s a different story.

In the coming 10 days, trade unions and leftist protesters plan to step up their opposition to Macron’s labor market reforms. Leftist opposition politician Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for large-scale street action on September 23, and several other major demonstrations are slated for the intervening days.

Many on the French hard left are vehemently opposed to the changes, which will simplify employment rules by making it easier to hire and fire workers. Leftists say the measures, which are set to be adopted by the government on September 22, may weaken job security and take power out of unions' hands.

On Monday, truck drivers who are members of the CFDT union, France’s largest, blocked highways, Reuters reported. “Today is a warning,” Patrick Blaise, secretary general of CFDT’s truck drivers, told Le Parisien newspaper. “If they don’t listen to us, CFDT’s truckers won’t stop there.”

The CGT union will stage another round of protests on September 21. On September 25, truck drivers belonging to the CGT and Force Ouvriere, France’s third-largest union, will launch further action, including against gas stations.

And while Macron’s opponents have lost this particular battle—he successfully shepherded the labor law changes through Parliament over the summer—there’s a lot more that they’re preparing to oppose.

CGT and other unions want retirees to strike back against planned pensions reforms; Macron wants to increase social charges used to fund healthcare and welfare. “We don’t intend to wait until the pension reform proposals to act,” said Fabrice Angei, a senior CGT official. “We need to put an end to the destruction of our social model.”

“This second phase is going to take longer than the current one,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said last week of the planned reforms. “Behind these reforms isn’t only the desire to relaunch the economy,” he said. “It’s about our collective ability to be a country that acts decisively.”

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