“The French government said it would give 6.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in low interest loans to Renault SA and PSA Peugeot-Citroen in exchange for pledges that the car makers won’t close any factories or lay off any workers in France for the duration of the funding.” Wall Street Journal 2-10-09
Quel surpris! The French government bailout of France’s auto industry requires the auto companies to continue the employment of the company’s workers! In the US, on the other hand, the government urges the auto industry to “restructure” before receiving bailout funds, principally by laying off workers.
Are US auto workers any less deserving of this pledge? Does government owe them any less, in a time of global economic crisis?
But then nobody asked…
In the US, representatives of the auto workers join the CEO’s in begging for corporate bailout money while conceding that everyone must make sacrifices. It is a foregone conclusion that tens of thousands of workers will lose their jobs for the sake of “restructuring”.
France’s commitment to its auto workers certainly does not spring from any compassion on the part of its government. French President Sarkozy has dedicated his term to breaking the back of France’s unions. He is widely viewed as a French George Bush, seeking to wipeout the social gains of years of struggle in the interest of a harsh competitive regimen.
But the French working class has pushed back with militant, united street actions and strikes. They have joined students, immigrants, retirees, and professionals in resisting. Long derided by arrogant tourists for its labor militancy, France has - ironically - faired better economically than its European counterparts in the face of the world crisis.
There are lessons here. Is anyone listening?