Strolling Along a Closed Champs Elysées

A late night stroll along the famous Paris street Champs Elysées may leave a less-than-desired experience for tourists hoping to stop by some of the street’s popular shops.
As labor unions in America struggle to organize more groups of employees from hairdressers to fast food employees, France’s highly regulated labor market currently experiences 10 percent unemployment among its active population.

This high level of unemployment, however, has not stopped French labor unions from suing companies for breaking the country’s law allowing sales to occur only during specific hours.

A recent court case, featured by Yahoo News, has caused the makeup store Sephora, stationed along the Champs Elysées, to close at 9 p.m.

The case was brought by a consortium of labor unions, which has been zealous in its attempts to have the store-closing hour law enforced, arguing that it needs to protect workers from unscrupulous owners who force them to work antisocial hours.

Sephora estimates that 20 percent of its business occurred after 9 p.m. Workers at the chain store were outraged:

…[T]he 50 sales staff who work the late shift do so voluntarily―and are paid an hourly rate that is 25 percent higher than the day shift. Many of them are students or part-time workers, and they have publicly expressed their indignation about being put out of work by labor unions. The judge refused to take into consideration a petition they presented to the court, saying the case was a matter of public order….

Yet, with regulations beginning to incense France’s working population, such strict labor laws are still being enforced, and unemployment has continued to rise.

As America faces its future, we should take a look at France. Curtailing vibrant businesses and putting workers out of their jobs in response to union demands are not good for workers in the end.

Sarah Ross Wolf is the communications coordinator for Cascade Policy Institute and a devout shopper.

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6 Responses to Strolling Along a Closed Champs Elysées

  1. Walter Woodland says:

    Or, as a matter of fact, in the beginning…

  2. Neil Huff says:

    I realize the Institute is extremely anti union. I find that fact strange. I suggest it may be because of the source of some their funding or it may simply be that most of the staff are much too young to have learned from their parents what life was like before the organization of unions in this country and in Europe. While I never belonged to a union in my life, my father belonged to some kind of union when he worked in the construction and later in operation of nuclear facilities.

    I would like to know from some member of the Institute what they think the country would be like today if there had been no organized labor opposing the rapacious capitalism of the early 20th century? Do you think a middle class would have emerged? If so how would that have happened when big capital controlled the political system? They were curbed ONLY when the Democrats under FDR were finally given a voice and a champion.

    Now the laboring people-including the crumbling middle class- have no one in their corner and the anti unionists are everywhere on the march.

  3. admin says:

    I most certainly am not “anti-union.” But if you think that such strict labor laws like those being pushed in the story above are good for a local economy, I would have to disagree with you.


    • Neil Huff says:

      But since when have the French ever got anything right? Not since siding with the US against the Brits in 1776. Maybe we can add discovering snails are eatable. .

  4. Ben Name says:

    “…[they] are paid an hourly rate that is 25 percent higher than the day shift…and they have publicly expressed their indignation about being put out of work by labor unions.”

    Sounds like they are just bitter about loosing their sweet situation.

  5. Neil Huff says:

    No one claims unionism is always pretty or that unions do not have their problems and excesses. The question remains, however, what would the economic situation be in the US and in Europe if there had been no organized resistance to the Robber Barons and the rapacious capitalism that dictated the terms of the labor/capital relationship until the 20th century?

    I am not defending public service unions, nor those whose demands are excessive and self defeating as are those of the French in question. I am responding to what-perhaps wrongly- I perceive as an anti union bent in these pages.

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