Macron faces first protests

Street Protest

French labor groups are planning a street protest in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron.

France24 reported that the protests would be led by the CGT, one of France’s largest trade unions.

The protestors object to Macron’s proposed labor reforms, which he says are intended to jumpstart employment and reduce certain unhelpful restrictions on hiring.

There are 36 separate elements in Macron’s proposal. One would give small companies the right to negotiate directly with employees. Another would make it easier to fire people.

French labor laws are complex. They run to almost 3,500 pages. Macron and Edouard Philippe, the Prime Minister, believe these laws must be reformed.

Their union opponents believe the proposed reforms represent a possible abuse of executive power.

Relations between the two sides took a turn for the worse when Macron said he would not "yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extremes.”

Trade union leaders, leftist media, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was one of Macron’s opponents in the presidential election, objected to the remark. To them, it implied that Macron thought his opponents were lazy.

Macron claimed there had been a misunderstanding, and said his remarks referred to past politicians who had refused to address labor reform.

The blow-up over his “lazy” comment is yet another PR challenge for Macron. His popularity has fallen sharply since his election. Although his ultimate victory over Marine LePen was impressive, as a poll conducted by leftist newspaper Libération showed, many Macron voters chose him due to fear of the alternatives, not because of his policies.

Many voters simply abstained. The 2017 election’s abstention rate was the highest in nearly 50 years.

Macron also struggles with being perceived as a politician for the wealthy. His background in banking and zeal for labor reform do not endear him to most of the French left. Political observers believe that for his proposals to succeed, he will have to convince these constituencies to trust him.

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