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Why You Should Care About the Paris Trash Strike

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Paris, France has been known as a dirty city for years now, but in the past month, the rumors have grown to be true. Trash has been filling the streets, piling up around every corner. You might be wondering why the city of love has been hoarding heaps of trash, but it’s not for the reason you might think. On Wednesday, March 15, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would be raising the age of retirement from 62 to 64. Worse yet, the age was raised from 57 to 59 for garbage collectors. In true French form, the people of Paris decided to strike against the new pension plan, starting with the garbage collectors.  

Macron has proved to be highly controversial in French politics since the year he won the election in 2017, as well as his subsequent reelection just last year in 2022. Many people in France have been disenchanted, to say the least, with some of Macron’s actions over the course of his Presidential terms, such as when he showed support for a minister facing rape accusations. That being said, his new retirement age reform bill is one of his most controversial moves yet, and he even overrode the parliament to do so. 

The bill not only seeks to increase the age of retirement, which forces those working in manual labor to overexert themselves, but it also raises the number of required working years to be eligible for pension and specifically targets low-wage, manual labor employment. This means that this bill will affect many low-income individuals who must start working at an earlier age than those who are able to seek higher education or other avenues. 

Seeing as this bill affects so many people, the general French public opinion is unsurprisingly supportive. Even business owners who are negatively impacted by the trash-laden streets are both understanding and in favor of the strike. Restaurant owner Franck Jacquot found that “50 percent of diners had disappeared in the past 10 days,” yet he said that “it doesn’t bother [him] because it’s for a good cause.” Jacquot is not alone in his approval, as hundreds of thousands of civilians have been seen striking and protesting against the bill.  

Despite all this support, there has been one major complaint: rats. Even before the strike, Paris has been suffering from rat infestations with an estimated 1.5-1.75 rats to 1 person ratio. Now that there’s even more trash, it’s safe to say the rats aren’t going anywhere for a while. Not only is it unpleasant, but it actually poses a huge health risk for Parisians. The French National Medicine Academy even had to warn citizens about the infestations, describing the rats as “the most harmful of human commensal species,” and the situation at large as “a real danger to public health.”  

While the strike is mainly concentrated in Paris and parts of Marseille, its meaning is important for us all to recognize. These protests are a prime example of the importance of unionization, community, and most importantly, compassion. It is nothing short of beautiful to see the Parisian people banding together in support of their most undervalued workers.  

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Alyssa Yon is a first year student at Florida State University studying English literature, media, and culture. She loves painting, writing, and listening to music!