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French unions split on new prez

NY Times reports that Unions in France split over whether to back Macron

Posted on
May 02, 2017

The French Presidential Election is down to it’s final two candidates and they are sprinting towards the finish before French voters head to the polls.  At yesterday's May Day rallies, unions showed their split between the centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far right candidate Marine Le Pen.  While some unions are supporting Macron, some have withheld their endorsement and are instead asking their members to simply not vote for Le Pen.  Find out more about the division within the French union movement below.

France’s presidential campaign entered its last week Monday, coinciding with May Day labor demonstrations around the country that reflected a split among unions over whether to endorse Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate, against Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent.

More than 140,000 people participated in rallies in Paris, Lille, Marseille, and other cities — events organized by French labor unions, some of which have found themselves in a bind before the vote in the second and final round of the presidential election Sunday.

Although they have historically opposed Le Pen’s far-right National Front and have urged members to vote against her, several major labor unions also fought the job market overhauls that Macron defended as economy minister and that he wants to expand if elected.

That has left unions split between those who have explicitly endorsed Macron, and those who have only called for votes against Le Pen.

France’s presidential campaign entered its last week Monday, coinciding with May Day labor demonstrations around the country that reflected a split among unions over whether to endorse Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate, against Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent.

More than 140,000 people participated in rallies in Paris, Lille, Marseille, and other cities — events organized by French labor unions, some of which have found themselves in a bind before the vote in the second and final round of the presidential election Sunday.

Although they have historically opposed Le Pen’s far-right National Front and have urged members to vote against her, several major labor unions also fought the job market overhauls that Macron defended as economy minister and that he wants to expand if elected.

That has left unions split between those who have explicitly endorsed Macron, and those who have only called for votes against Le Pen.

At a rally of his supporters in Paris on Monday, Macron reiterated his economic agenda and renewed calls for a “strong Europe.” But he said he would never “judge” a National Front voter, “because behind that vote there is always an anger, an outrage, a disappointment.”

Though he condemned Le Pen for seeking to exploit voters’ anger, Macron seemed to play to the same deep anxieties Monday when he told the BBC that if elected he would have “to listen to our people, and to listen to the fact that they are extremely angry today, impatient, and the dysfunction of the EU is no more sustainable.”

Macron said that he was “pro-European,” but that if elected he would “reform in-depth the European Union and our European project,” lest he “betray” the French people.

“I don’t want to do so, because the day after, we will have a ‘Frexit,’” he said, referring to a French exit from the European Union, “or we will have the Front National again.”

Many on the French left, including union advocates who oppose the National Front, say the economic policies defended by Macron — free trade and a desire to loosen labor regulations — have fueled the National Front’s success.

Those voters, many of whom supported the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, do not want their votes for Macron to be construed as support for his platform. The latest polls have shown an increase in the number of voters who say they plan to abstain in the second round.

In Paris on Monday, the unions that supported Marcon and opposed Le Pen marched separately, in stark contrast to 2002, when the different labor unions united to oppose Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, after he made it into the second round of the presidential elections.

Philippe Martinez, head of the General Confederation of Labor, one of France’s biggest unions, told the newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday that while his and other unions agreed on opposing the National Front, “we are not in 2002 anymore.”

At the bigger demonstration Monday in Paris, unions marched for workers’ rights and against Marine Le Pen, without calling for support for Macron. Other demonstrators carried signs that read “No to Macron” and “No to Le Pen,” and some chanted “abolish the Macron law” or “abolish the labor law.”

Demonstrators at a smaller rally organized earlier Monday in Paris by more moderate labor unions, who have endorsed Macron, said voters had to choose.

“Although we don’t support the politics of Macron, we advise our followers to vote for him, because we don’t want Le Pen,” said Olivier Belem, 56, a computer technician and union member.

“The fact that the other unions don’t give voters clear advice will leave open the possibility of a blank vote and will help Le Pen in her chances of victory,” he said.

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