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.