Union workers and police went head to head this week in nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to overhaul France’s labor laws.
These laws, known as the Code du Travail, have been a source of much dispute over the last few French presidencies. Financial institutions blame its rigidity for the lack of growth in French companies over recent decades, and claim that rewriting it would stimulate economic growth and provide new jobs, minimizing a current unemployment rate of nearly 10%. Workers argue that, by making it easier for companies to hire and fire employees, Macron’s proposed revisions would eliminate job security for an aging population of union employees.
Though it is clear that the numbers of protestors were enormous, no one seems to be able to agree on exactly how many showed up on Tuesday to speak their minds. The CGT, France’s largest labor union, claims a turnout of 400,000 people all across France, while the police give their official tally as 223,000, (CGT seems to have also used the same algorithm Sean Spicer used to estimate Trump’s inaugural crowd in January). Protests that began peacefully sparked violence when a crowd of about 300 adolescents began throwing projectiles at police officers in Paris. Police responded with tear gas, which seems to have become the signature scent of 2017.
Regardless of the protests, Macron’s reforms will likely be signed into law at the end of this month. Macron’s place in the headlines and in history will depend on how his country chooses to accept them.