French Labor Protests Cut Power to World's Largest Produce Market
Last week, French union CGT-Énergie informed its members about the ongoing strikes and demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron's proposed changes to the country's pension system.
"Following lawyers throwing their robes at the Minister's feet, teachers emptied their bags or threw their textbooks in front of their departmental and academic offices," CGT wrote on its website. "The strike of dockers, porters, and sailors continued, making maritime traffic almost zero. This morning the major construction site of Porte Maillot in Paris was stopped with the employees demanding recognition of the arduousness of their trades."
The union said that the protests would continue this week, and true to its word, they have. On Tuesday, energy workers represented by CGT-Énergie shut off the electricity in some southern sectors of Paris, disrupting the rail service to Orly airport, leaving some 35,000 households in the dark, and forcing Rungis, the world's biggest fresh produce market, to rely on its emergency generators.
"It's symbolic. It made a buzz and that's what everyone wants," Franck Jouanno, a CGT-Énergie representative, told local news outlets. "It's not the end of the world to have a power cut. In general it doesn't last more than a morning."
A spokesperson for the Rungis International Market told RFI that the emergency power kicked on at about 5:30 on Tuesday morning, and the outage lasted for 90 minutes. The market was still operational, despite CGT's best efforts. (And 5:30 a.m. is practically mid-morning in some parts of Rungis; the seafood section opens at 2 a.m. most days, and the meat and horticulture departments get their start an hour later.)
Rungis' current location was opened in March 1969, by then-president Charles de Gaulle. The fresh produce market had been in its previous spot in Les Halles for more than eight centuries (no, that's not a typo).
And it's huge. For starters, it covers 550 acres, making it bigger than the entire country of Monaco. It services more than 20,000 buyers and some 26,000 vehicles every day and, according to Explore France, it supplies 50 percent of the seafood, 45 percent of the fruit and vegetables, and 35 percent of the meats that are served and supplied to the entire city of Paris.
The Associated Press reports that the CGT and several other unions have warned that additional protests could be coming on Friday, because that's the day that the government will formally present the pension reform bill to the Cabinet. Today might be a good day for Parisians to check the batteries in their flashlights, just in case.