Smell Those Baguettes! Paris Contends With Sanitation Strike

Tetiana Lukerievas /
Tetiana Lukerievas /

Taking a trip to Paris for many people is the vacation of a lifetime. The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the trash mounds? With the growing unrest at the proposal to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, the sanitation department has gone on strike. As the rats move in to feast on the trash mounts in the usually picturesque city, many wonder how long the country can endure such a strike.

With Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo fully supporting the strike in the city as well as measures across the nation, there is little pressure being placed on them to return to work. It’s not just limited to Paris either. As the infrastructure breaks down in response to the measure across France, people wonder if President Emmanuel Macron will continue to stand by his presidential fiat bypassing the French parliament.

First announced in January, the protests began then, and for many of the French, this has just become a part of life. They are not willing to give up their way of life or their sense of work-life balance. To them, life is to be worked exceptionally hard, with an earlier and more well-rounded retirement as a reward. By punting that goal back another two years, many in France believe that they have been cheated away from two years to enjoy a lifetime of work.

As President Macron explained previously, this was about people living longer, and the money in their retirement system is not lasting as it should have. To continue the payouts at the levels the city has been paying the people, they would need to delay their retirement. This idea failed parliament, so when it came back up his decision to use presidential fiat to slip it through, the people lost it.

For now, the smell of trash is symbolic of the way they feel about Macron. For many they believe he has spoiled the country, rotting it from the inside out with his progressive way of life and way of looking at the problems plaguing France. They see the rats as his people coming to feast on the hard work of the French people.

Using trash like this is not a distinctively French move. In the late 1970s, London and other parts of the UK saw the streets with trash piled as tall as the buildings surrounding it as a form of protest towards the ushering of Margaret Thatcher to victory. Also much like now in France, the Brits saw this demonstration as a visual representation of the culture in the UK at the time.

1957 as well as 1968 with the political fermentation in Paris came to mind for many in light of these recent developments. 1968 also saw trash strikes in NYC and St Petersburg, FL as well as Paris. There they were held to protest the US involvement in the Vietnam War as well as signs of activism towards the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and during riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tourists in Paris seem to be bothered by the stench and the sight, but not enough to cancel their trips or even postpone them. For many, this is an ideal time to see the city as prices are low in response to less foot traffic. Being one of few willing to brave the streets is almost a badge of honor for them, while those who are from the area consider it just another day, and well worth the inconvenience.

With any luck, Macron will crumble soon and the protests will come to a quick end. The decision to tell the people of France that their efforts and work no longer measure up like they used to is a very dangerous and horrific message to send his countrymen.