Monday, May 3, 2010

La Fête du Travail - May 1st

Saturday was La Fête du Travail here in France, or Labor Day as we call it in the US.  And this year I decided I hate it!

First a little information about La Fête du Travail.  In most countries it is celebrated on May 1, though in the US we celebrate our Labor Day on the first Monday of September and in the UK and Ireland (apparently) they celebrate it on the first Monday of May.  I find both of these options to be much more intelligent than what they do here in France, for reasons I will explain in a minute.

Anyway the date of May 1 actually, ironically enough, comes from a strike in Chicago (and the US in general) in 1886 when workers were striking against companies that refused to instate the 8 hour work day.  In Chicago the strikes turned violent and workers were killed and so the date of May 1 was chosen as a day to celebrate workers rights and have a day off of work.

In the US however, we moved Labor Day to the first Monday of September because it works better for school schedules and it also marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year.  I don't know why the UK and Ireland celebrate it the first Monday of May, but I'm willing to bet its because they are smarter than, for example, the French.

So why do I think it is better to celebrate the first Monday of May, or September for that matter?  Because this year May 1 fell on a Saturday, which, in typical French fashion, meant that normal 9-5 workers got screwed.  Since May 1 was a Saturday, those of us who work "normal" jobs Monday-Friday did not get a day off for the holiday that is supposed to give us a day to relax and to celebrate the rights of workers.  Very stupid, I know.  In my opinion, we should have either gotten Friday or Monday off because why shouldn't everyone get to enjoy the special workers' holiday?  If it is the first Monday of a month, then this is never a problem.

Of course, us 9-5ers couldn't just get screwed over once, but instead we got screwed over twice.  Since May 1 was a Saturday, that meant all the supermarkets and stores were closed because those workers of course still got their day off for La Fête du Travail.  Which meant that not only did we miss out on a day of rest, but we also missed out on being able to do any necessary shopping over the weekend, since most stores are closed on Sundays in France anyway!  And since its hard to have the time to shop after work because stores close early and people get home late, you had to be really organized since you couldn't use the weekend to shop!

And if that isn't stupid enough...some of the big supermarkets (for example my Auchan), opened exceptionally on Sunday since they were closed on Saturday.  Can you please explain to me how this helped anyone?  So there employees get their Saturday off for May 1, but then have to work on Sunday when the store would normally be closed to make up for it?  Wouldn't it have just been easier on everyone to stick to normal hours and just be open on Saturday and closed on Sunday as usual?

Oh well, this is France and you can't expect a lot of common sense and logical behavior!

1 comment:

  1. From a commercial perspective, the stores lost massive amounts of turnover by being closed on a Saturday. Usually the weekend around the 1 May is supposed to be one of the highest grossing weekends of the year. Because of that, it was necessary for the stores to recover their losses by opening on a Sunday.
    I completely agree with you -- if it were always on a Monday, then the stores wouldn't be closed on Saturday, and they wouldn't be open on Sunday. I'm just not sure how far the French actually think these kinds of things through. They just prefer their occasional "pont", and I suppose that is worth sacrificing their one free day of the year.