On Tuesday January 31, all of the French unions called for a national strike to protest against the government's pension reform.
A first day of mobilization brought together 1.12 million demonstrators, according to the Ministry of the Interior and the new mobilization could be just as intense.
In order to hold on, the strikers rely partially on strike funds whose funds allow the mobilized, who lose a significant part of their income, to be a little financially relieved.
At the dawn of the second episode of mobilization against the pension reform, unions and strikers are organizing.
And among the essential tools of a challenge that could be held over a long time, strike funds figure prominently.
“Social conflict is a balance of power.
In order not to be the first to give in, the strikers need to hold on”, in particular on the financial level, underlines Stéphane Sirot, historian, specialist in the history of strikes and trade unionism.
And on Tuesday, the strikers will be numerous.
The national strike launched at the call of all French unions will affect all sectors, from the public service to transport and services.
According to a map posted online by the UNSA, more than 200 gathering places are already listed.
As much as during the first day of mobilization.
To financially support the strikers, formal and informal strike funds are organized.
First of all, there are the strike funds which make it possible to anticipate a future conflict.
“As the labor movement got organized, they became union strike funds,” explains Gabriel Rosenman, a former railway worker who is writing a thesis on strike funds.
"Show that the strikers are supported"
The CFDT wins the prize for the largest union strike fund in France.
It brings together 141 million euros and allows financial support to be paid to members in the event of a social movement.
With 7.7 euros promised for those who joined more than six months ago, it does not, however, replace a day worked.
But "no strike fund has the ambition to replace the salary", specifies Gabriel Rosenman who adds that the criteria vary according to the mobilizations.
"It is rather to relieve the portfolio of those who follow the big movements", abounds Stéphane Sirot, adding that the phenomenon is even more true in France where the unionization rate (10.3% in 2019) is quite low. .
Great strikers who chain the days not worked, single parents,
Another form of strike fund, more informal, exists in times of major mobilizations.
These are calls for donations, like the one launched by the CGT info'com, a union which brings together advertising and publishing employees in particular, for the mobilization against the pension reform.
“These pop-up funds are more political in nature.
They show that the strikers are supported, that they are not isolated.
It gives them the motivation to continue, ”decrypts Gabriel Rosenman.
Sometimes, outbursts of generosity are exceptional.
“During the miners' strike of 1963, several million francs were raised.
In 2018, more than one million was collected for railway workers and in 2019 nearly five million, ”recalls this strike fund expert.
Shows, soups and pots
The phenomenon is not new.
“Since the beginning of the history of strikes, there have always been strike relief.
Today, it is a matter of cash relief, before it was much more relief in kind, ”recounts Stéphane Sirot.
The specialist in the history of the strike notes that donations can be very diverse, from nationally organized collection to individual initiative.
“In the interwar period, for example, fairly famous artists took part in shows whose paid entry went into the strike fund.
In some mobilizations, communist soups were served free to eat for the strikers.
And yesterday, I saw on Facebook a person who was selling one of his paintings in support of the strikers”, illustrates Stéphane Sirot, evoking a “proliferation of initiatives”.
Because support is not organized only in the street.
And if many are worried that the donation replaces the strike and weakens the movement, it turns out that it is only one means of expression of protest among others.
Gabriel Rosenman has created a questionnaire to find out more about the donors of the solidarity fund, which has collected more than 4 million donations since 2016. More than 5,000 donors agreed to answer this questionnaire and, among them, 66 % participated in other strike support activities such as demonstrations.
“Donors have different profiles.
Some people wish to support the movement but do not have the material or legal capacity to strike, for example the self-employed, the retired or the unemployed.
Changing “the perimeter of solidarity” with the Internet
Mobilization is also done online.
A collective of steamers launched the “PiquetDeStream” channel on Twitch in order to encourage the social movement, to “bring the strike to life online” and to raise funds for the strike funds.
A similar initiative emerged with the “Recondustream” channel four years ago.
However, “the appropriation of digital tools is quite recent.
The first massive use of online pots dates back to 2016,” points out Gabriel Rosenman.
Creating continuity between the street and the meanders of the Internet is a profitable idea for social movements.
“Online, we change the perimeter of solidarity.
The donors are sometimes not of the same profession or the same geographical location,” he notes.
Thanks to the Internet, strikers can therefore find financial support from people they would not have been able to reach otherwise.
Whether donations are made via an online kitty or a check slipped into a mailbox, they remain vital so that a movement does not run out of steam.
"Money is an essential part of the practice of the strike", agrees Stéphane Sirot.
“The adversaries of the conflict are counting on it, they are waiting for people to run out and let the situation deteriorate,” he adds.
With its euros, the strike fund makes it possible to give a few more marbles to the strikers.
What weigh heavier and longer in the balance of power while 72% of French people are opposed to the pension reform, according to a poll by the Elabe institute published last Wednesday.
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