Yellow Vests Have Created a Union To Actually Serve Their Members – Regular Unions Put Up Roadblocks

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: Finally change in the union microcosm!


Born out of the Yellow Vests movement, the burgeoning Yellow Vests Syndicate offers an alternative. Created by experienced and committed trade unionists, it rejects the large pyramidal, authoritarian and corrupt organizations, which absolutely no longer fulfill their missions. By betting on financial freedom to defend the rights of employees, it is part of the political and non-partisan spirit of the popular movement that gave birth to it. Encounter with this phenomenon.

The Media in 4-4-2: Hello. Can you tell us who you are and introduce the union?

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: We are the founding members of the Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes. Who we are personally is nobody’s business: the members are not intended to make themselves known. They prefer to remain in the shadows and work for a common and superior cause. More than 25 years ago, we had formed a union which was affiliated with the CFDT. In 2014, when Macron, then Minister of the Economy, attacked the Sunday day of rest, we obviously expressed our firm opposition, but the confederation (Editor’s note: the CFDT) did not appreciate it at all. As they tried to put us under guardianship to silence us, a practice unfortunately very common in the industry, we took our independence and created a free and unsubsidized union.

So we started the adventure alone, under attacks aimed at dissolving us, especially from other unions. We were obviously in the way, because our union, which at the time simply defended Parisian commerce, stood out from all the others for its three fundamental principles:

  • we were incorruptible, since we financed ourselves;
  • our mandates were revocable and imperative; and
  • we ensured the financial support of the strike, a practice that has become extremely rare on the part of the central trade unions, despite being rich with millions, but whose interest is no longer to defend the workers.

In this dramatic situation, and while Macron was completely unraveling labor law, we might as well say it: we felt very alone. But four years later, on November 17, 2018, (ER: this was the day that the Yellow Vests did their first big rally up and down the country, with an estimated attendance of 1.2 million, that the MSM reported was around 200,000) the alarm clock had finally rung! It was magnificent: the people rose on their own, without unions, without parties, without anything. A solidarity and a fraternity spontaneously rediscovered.

The movement, initially hostile (rightly) to traditional politics and trade unions, gradually became structured and open to the idea of ​​creating a union in the spirit of the Yellow Vests; that is to say, free, popular and incorruptible, and which covers all possible professional fields, both private and public. We therefore undertook to create the Syndicate of Yellow Vests.

But you don’t create a multi-corporate trade union by snapping your fingers. Already, union representativeness requires seven criteria: respect for republican values; independence; financial transparency; workforce and contributions, a measured audience in professional elections and, finally, an influence characterized by activity and experience, including a minimum seniority of two years. However, because we had been attacked and we had anticipated a strategy not to be dissolved, we had already entertained several dormant structures, in different forms, which met these criteria. In 2020, we were able to take one of them and transform it. The Yellow Vests Union was born. We just had to create a union for each corporation and attach them to this union one by one, which we have since started. Even today, it continues to grow and gradually integrates all professional fields in France.

The Media in 4-4-2: What were your first fights?

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: We already had to deal with attacks from employers. Thus, we filed an appeal because we were accused of not respecting republican values… since we were Yellow Vests! To defend ourselves, we then had the help of Juan Branco, who spontaneously came to see us and defended us brilliantly.

He continues to plead for the union, in particular for the demand that we renew every day a call to demonstrate in front of the Élysée. They are systematically refused, which proves that it is not possible to demonstrate freely and where desired in France (an exception in OECD countries, where most other nations authorize demonstrations in front of ministries or palace of the president or the king). We don’t want people to get used to that! We therefore seized the administrative court, and the complaint will be filed before the European Court of Human Rights.

As for struggles, our first symbolic action was to create an inter-union in front of the National Assembly with VIGI, the independent police union. At the time, we were in the midst of a debate on the famous Global Security Act, and it was important to show that despite the violent repression suffered by the Yellow Vests, we could unite with the police to defend our rights and our values.

The Media in 4-4-2: What are you doing now, what future are you preparing for the union?

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: A union is nothing but a counter-power in the world of work. However, today, there are no more!

The workforce has become very complicated, by the forms of management that are put in place, by the generalization of teleworking which isolates workers, by robotization and artificial intelligence, by Uberization, etc. In a system where the employer has the power to direct, sanction and hire, it is often no longer possible for the employee to find a balance. Unfortunately, we are no longer in the glorious 30s, when we could find work overnight.

Unions, through simple legal action, can rebalance this state of affairs. When, faced with an employer who does not respect labor law, you have someone strong and well trained, normally, unless you are dishonest, the rights of employees are respected. And then, of course, you can also win other rights. The union is therefore a very powerful protection tool.

By bringing together in a single block (the CSE: social and economic committee) the staff delegates, the Works Council and the CHSCT, Macron attacked the representative bodies, to isolate the elected representatives from the workers (and the unions accepted without flinching! ). However, to do this, it generated a wave of staff representative elections in 2019. Four years later, our strategy is therefore to take advantage of the election period to put ourselves on the ballot. If we have the dates of the meetings that prepare the elections, we go there; even if one is not yet in these companies. We can then participate, make ourselves known to employees, have candidates, present some, have elected representatives and, therefore, weigh in the box. This is what occupies us a lot today, until the end of the year.

The Media in 4-4-2: How are you talked about in the press?

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: The “mainstream” media haven’t really talked about us yet… which doesn’t pose a problem for us, since we seek to make ourselves known and grow within the field.

The Media in 4-4-2: How does one become active in this union?

Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes: The first phase, of course, is to join. Then, if your company has more than 50 employees and you have more than one year of seniority, you can find a second member and thus create a union section. You will then have panels, a voice. You will promote yourself like any other union, except you will have much more freedom of speech. This remains a protective mandate: you cannot be fired without entering the labor inspectorate. Once the elections are over, if you get more than 10%, you will be a union representative and you can then negotiate company agreements.

Finally, if you really want to get involved, you can train with the union. You will learn how to negotiate the pre-electoral protocol, which organizes the elections of the staff delegation. You will therefore be at the heart of negotiations with employers.

Sylvain and Erwan, for Media 4-4-2

Find the Union Syndicale des Vests Jaunes on its website.




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