For those of you completely disconnected from anything French over the last month, there have been a string of protests over a new law (CPE) that changes some rights of young employees. Mainly, anyone under 26 can be terminated during the first two years without cause/notice. Sounds rough, but you need to understand it is near impossible to terminate an employees employment right now in France and most people have the same job most of their life.

The weeks of twice-weekly protests have led up to today, a General Strike. These are rare and should be the crowning moment of the protests/striking. However I feel that, even with between one and three million people in the streets today, this has not yet ended. The government is not going to withdraw the law, and the youth are scared of what it will mean.

This law was drafted as a response to weeks of nightly violent protests in the suburbs around France by disenfranchised immigrant/1st generation youths. Every night hundreds of cars were lit on fire around France at the peak of their violence and riots. The process of integration unto the French society begins with their education, and is finished with their ability to work and provide for their families in France. Right now, no one will higher them because of the difficulties in terminating a poor employee (even though most will no doubt satisfy their employers).

One of the best ways to demonstrate the current situation is to think of gambling, when you don’t know the odds, and only know that there is a lot at stake (potentially you’re entire company, or at the least their image/credibility depending on field). With the new law, it would allow companies to ‘try’ employees and those who do good work they can keep. While people looking for a free ride or who are not suited for the culture of the company could be released. A large part of effective employee placement is actually revolving around the lifestyles of the prospective employees and how congruent it is with that of those currently working at a company. If everyone who works for company X likes to eat seafood and read Shakespeare for fun and you are hired but you hate seafood and love comic books… There won’t be much office chemistry there and it is a large part of how effective people are at their workplaces.

I commend those who have come out to strike and protest this law. To see such interest and action is very different than in the US. There is just so much on the line for France that they stand to loose because of the lack of employment in France. Millions of protestors are in the streets, and there are even more millions of dollars that bypass France to other countries who are able to be more flexible in the workplace.