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Why Americans Don’t Want to Invest in France


A battle raging in France’s “pro-worker” legal system between an American multinational and a French labor union is sure to repel any Americans thinking of investing there in the future. The US tire company Goodyear has a factory in the northern French town of Amiens that is losing $80 million a year; it makes products for which there is no longer a market, as the BBC reports. Goodyear first tried introducing rotating six- and four-day workweeks for the factory’s 1,173 workers (keeping the 35-hour workday intact, of course). When France’s largest trade union refused, Goodyear tried laying off 400 workers. Then it tried selling the factory. Then it tried shutting it down.

Fail, fail, fail. The factory’s workers are represented by a formidable labor lawyer, protected by an incomprehensible 3,371-page labor law, and they have been supported by France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande:

“French law says if you want to put all these workers on the dole, you have to have a good reason,” says Fiodor Rilov, the CGT union’s lawyer. “This may be an American company, with a headquarters in the US but they are operating on French soil and they have to respect our social rules.” […]

The workers see their conflict in epic terms. Footage of past demonstrations features piles of burning tyres, huge banners and dramatic headgear. Some protesters sport helmets with horns on them—as in the French cartoon Asterix about a plucky Gaulish village defending itself against brutish Roman invaders.

The CEO of the company to which Goodyear tried to sell the factory pithily encapsulated part of the problem (as he sees it):

“The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three, and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

To be sure, this is more than just a case of a hard-working American company dealing with a bunch of lazy Frenchmen. Both Goodyear and its employees in Amiens are dealing with the decline of the manufacturing sector in France. Neither has had much time to come to terms with this phenomenon, and it’s hardly shocking that workers would resist the erosion of their industry in every way they can. The livelihoods of both company and workers are at stake, and no one quite knows how to keep the worst from happening.

That said, France’s labor unions and judicial system cannot protect workers indefinitely from the day of reckoning. The forces of capitalism and technological progress will overwhelm “respect” for France’s “social rules” sooner rather than later. The longer and harder France tries to resist this tidal wave, the worse things are going to get. Americans and others will think better of investing in France and employing its heavily unionized, underproductive workers, weakening the country’s economy and labor force and making a badly needed recovery that much harder to achieve.

The collapse of the blue model is global, and the pain is being spread far and wide.

[Map of France image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Nick Bidler

    I think the French will be hit most hard by the collapse of state centrality; France has the worst features of both Northern European national pride and Southern European work ethic.

  • bpuharic

    One longs for the day when the worshippers of capitalism will look at the 2007 worldwide economic collapse, engineered by the masters of the universe, and revile them the same way they do unions.

    • Fred

      Some long for the day when the worshipers of socialism will get it through their thick skulls that 2007 was the popping of an asset bubble, something that has been going on since at least the 17th century. Yet somehow despite those asset bubbles, all that evil capitalism has reduced poverty and raised living standards around the world, not to mention created innovations that save and lengthen lives and provide our poor luxuries kings couldn’t imagine in the 17th century.

      • bpuharic

        Good thing there are no socialists around, isn’t it?

        And asset bubbles somehow always wind up being paid for by the middle class.

  • Corlyss

    ” incomprehensible 3,371-page labor law,”
    For heaven’s sake, don’t advertise that or getting one will zoom to the top of Obama’s list of crippling regulations to foist on the prostrate American electorate.

  • Alexander Scipio

    Back in the day the brother of a good friend was promoted to run AMPEX in Spain. It was loinsg huge amounts of money. He tried to layoff some workers and rightsize the plant. Spain said, “Nope.” So AMPEX shut it down and left the country permanently. Goodyear needs to shutdown in France and leave. Let France sue. So what?

  • Alexander Scipio

    The collapse of the Blue model needs to accelerate. It is slow enough now that it allows idiots who don’t grasp it t(these are called “Democrats”) to keep making new Blue changes to allevate the crash that is unavioidable – thereby making everything worse.

    • bpuharic

      We already have a country where the Red model has been implemented


      Small group of wealthy religious fanatics run the country; no middle class, no middle class rights at all. Oh…and no gun control

      What’s not to like?

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