The Yellow Vest Movement: How it began

Benjamin Paris

The Yellow Vest Movement: How it began

As reported by our  correspondent in France, the following article explains the Yellow Vest  movement that began in Paris and, which during the last 18 months, has  grown into a movement that has swept Europe. This is a legitimate mass  protest in which the people are demanding their voices be heard and as  such have issued a list of demands. While violent infiltrators have at  times been sent from outside sources to derail and sideline the Yellow  Vests, the protest has remained largely peaceful and united in their  movement to bring back fairness and basic human rights.

The Yellow Vest movement began in  October 2018 through social media and as a protest against gas prices in  France. Yellow Vest protests run through this day, and are mainly held  on Saturdays because most of the participants work during the week.  Government officials mocked the movement, saying that "it wouldn’t last"  and it "would be dead in no time." The statements from those officials  were posted on social media and the organizers of the movement took it  to the next level in November. Every Saturday thousands upon thousands  gathered at strategic corners of roads, disrupting traffic.

The protestors have been there every  Saturday, prior to COVID-19 quarantine orders, and have been continually  beaten by police and anti-strike forces. The government soon learned  that the movement would not vanish. The Yellow Vest movement was born to  call attention to the rising fuel costs, high cost of living, and the   government's tax reforms. Taxes were unduly burdening the working and  middle classes, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. This was  coupled with the neglect and abandonment by public authorities of rural  and urban areas, and a general distrust of politicians and media.

As the government refused to listen,  the movement grew and picked up momentum.  In time the Yellow Vest  participants began protesting for what felt right for them, such as  stamping out homelessness. There’s enough housing in France to shelter  the country’s homeless, but the government wouldn’t give them this  assistance. Instead, they give hundreds of millions of dollars to  refugees.

The movement has been complicated with  the influx of rioters who do not stand for the same issues, and who  engage in criminal activity. They violently break into shops, fight with  police officers and avoid government protocols.

Here are the Yellow Vest demands:

1. Zero homeless. This is urgent, as  there are many people who need roofs over their head with many empty  houses and apartments available in the country.

2. More progressive income tax. That is to say, more income brackets.

3. Salarie Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance   (minimum salary no matter what your job title is) set at 1,300 euros  net.  The cost of living rises every year and the index for raises is  not in keeping with real life. Currently raises only increase by 1 to  1.5 percent per year, while the cost of living rises to 3 or 4 percent.  Over the last twenty years an increasing number of people have been  classified as poor.

4.   Encourage small business growth in villages and town centers. Stop  building large shopping areas around the big cities that kill small  businesses. Also, add more free parking in the city centers.

5.  Large housing insulation plans to go green while saving money for  households. The government needs to insulate hundreds of thousands of  houses that are leaking heat in the winter. Thermal imaging shows that  the homes are not insulated enough thus heat vanishes.

6.  Equitable business taxes of conglomerates like McDonald’s, Google,  Amazon, Carrefour, and for them to pay a wholesale tax rate while small  business owners pay a lesser rate.

7. Same social security system for all (including artisans and self-employed). End of RSI.

8. The pension system must remain united and therefore socialized. No retirement points.

9.  End of the increase in fuel taxes.

10.  No retirement stipends below 1,200 euros.

11.  Any elected representative will be entitled to the median salary  with their transportation costs monitored and reimbursed if justified. 

12.  The wages of all French people as well as pensions and allowances must be indexed to match inflation.

13.  Protect French industry: ban offshoring. Protecting industry means defending French know-how and jobs.

14.  End of seconded work. It is abnormal that a person who works on  French territory does not benefit from the same salary and the same  rights as others doing the same work. Anyone who is authorized to work  on French territory must be on equal footing with French citizens and  their employers must contribute at the same level as French employers.

15.  For job security, limit the number of fixed-term contracts for  large companies. The people want more CDI. (CDI = indefinite length job  contract). They want to ban 6 months contracts which end with the  phrase, “you are fired."

16.  End CICE. Use this money to launch a French hydrogen car industry (which is truly ecological, unlike the electric car).

17.  End of the austerity policy. Stop repaying the interest on the  debt, which is declared illegitimate, and begin to repay the debt  without taking the money of the poor and less poor, by going after the  80 Billion dollars in tax evasions.

18.  Address causes of forced migration.

19.  Asylum seekers are to be treated well. We owe them housing,  security, food and education for minors. Work with the United Nations so  that reception camps are opened in many countries of the world, pending  the outcome of the asylum request.

20. Rejected asylum seekers are to be returned to their country of origin.

21. A real integration policy must be implemented. Living in France  means becoming "French," entailing French language study, French history  study and civic education with certification.

22. Maximum salary fixed at 15,000 euros.

23. Create jobs for the unemployed.

24.  Increase disability allowances.

25.  Limitation on rents. More housing at moderate rents, especially for students and hazardous workers.

26.  Prohibition of selling infrastructure belonging to France (dams, airports, etc.).

27.  Substantial resources allocated to the justice system, the police,  the gendarmerie and the army. Law enforcement overtime is paid or  recovered.

28.  All of the money earned from motorway tolls  must be used for the maintenance of French motorways and roads as well  as road safety.

29. Since the price of gas and electricity has  increased since privatization took place, make them public again and  drop prices significantly.

30. Immediately end the closure of small lines, post offices, schools and maternity hospitals.

31.  Bring well-being to the elderly. Prohibit the making of money on  the elderly. Gray gold is over. The era of gray wellness begins.

32. Maximum 25 students per class from kindergarten to 12th grade.

33. Substantial resources brought to psychiatry.

34.  The popular referendum must enter into the Constitution. Creation  of a readable and efficient site, supervised by an independent control  body where people can make a bill. If this bill obtains 700,000  signatures then this bill must be discussed, supplemented and amended by  the National Assembly, which will have the obligation (one year to the  day after obtaining the 700,000 signatures) to submit it to the vote of  all the French.

35. Return to a seven-year term for the  President of the Republic. The election of deputies two years after the  election of the President of the Republic makes it possible to send a  positive or negative signal to the President of the Republic concerning  his policy. This would, therefore, help make the voice of the people  heard.

36. Retirement at age 60 and, for all those in physical profession, (mason or boner for example), the right to retire at 55.

37. A six-year-old child must not  caring for himself, necessitating a continuation of the Pajemploi aid  system until the child is 10 years old.

38.  Promote the transportation of goods by rail.

39.  No withholding tax.

40.  End of Presidential allowances for life.

41.  Prohibition on making merchants pay a tax when their customers use the credit card. Tax on marine fuel and kerosene.

The Yellow Vest movement is not going  away until the people's growing demands are met. What began as protests  against rising gas prices has turned into a countrywide movement to  create change and better the lives of the French people, a movement  which has now ignited and inspired similar protests worldwide.

Benjamin is a foreign correspondent for UNC living in France. He has lived all over the world including Alaska and Caribbean.