Strikes and protests swept France on Tuesday as the Yellow Vest movement and trade unionists came together for the first time in significant numbers.
The CGT union federation said "in more than 200 cities in France, nearly 300,000 people—whether their vests are red or yellow—hit the streets to express their common demands: an increase in the minimum wage, wages and pensions, for more social and tax justice, and an improvement in public services".
The Yellow Vests have put tens of thousands of people onto the streets every Saturday for 12 weeks in a row.
A movement that began over fuel prices has grown into a confrontation with French president Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal agenda.
The movement took a massive step upwards this week by linking with strikes that had been called as a result of rank and file pressure on union leaders.
The main CGT union federation, the smaller Solidaires union federation, the school students’ union and the university students’ union called for the action on Tuesday.
And union branches from some other federations joined their call.
Socialist Worker went to press before the full picture of the day’s events were clear, but there were good early signs.
Many rail services were hit as drivers, guards and signal workers struck.
Alain, a rail worker in Boulogne, told Socialist Worker, “We came out across the different union federations and the grades.
“Of course not everyone came out on strike. It is not easy to overcome the lack of leadership at an earlier stage from the union leaders, but lots of us are Yellow Vests or know the Yellow Vests.
“We can get unity and beat Macron.”
Sections of teachers and other school workers were out in many cities. From around 3am up to 1,000 strikers and Yellow Vests blockaded the entrances of the Rungis markets which supply the whole of the Paris district.
By dawn three out of four of the entrances were closed, and the fourth blocked by traffic.
Alice, a student at Paris 8 university, was part of the Rungis blockade and then went to a blockade at her college.
“There were 350 students involved early on and we closed the classes and then held a general assembly to discuss the attacks on education,” she told Socialist Worker.
“We are against restrictions on university entrance which will hit poorer people and against the sixteen-fold rise in fees for students from outside the European Union.
“But we also stand with the workers and the Yellow Vests against low pay, poor housing and the arrogance of the rich.”
She added, “The Rungis blockade was inspiring. It’s the first time I felt we could all be together.
“And it was great there were undocumented migrants’ groups who were part of it as well.”
In Nice, in southern France, one of the biggest mobilisations since the start of the movement saw strikers and Yellow Vests sweep through the streets.
Airport entrances in Nantes and the port of Bayonne in western France were blockaded.
To beat Macron there needs to be a further escalation—a continuing general strike—but every sign of unity this week is very important.