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Printing News From Around the World – Nov. 22, 2007

French Strike Tactics vs. American Strike Tactics

Since November 14th, transportation workers in France have been on strike. They are protesting pension cuts proposed by the new French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. As has happened with the WGA strike, other public sector unions have also called work stoppages, hoping to create enough chaos in France to force Sarkozy to meet their demands.

Although the media reports that striking has brought major French cities to a near standstill, it's interesting to note that in France, only 8% of the workforce is unionized, compared to 12% here in the US. Perhaps this is what is prompting Sarkozy's hardline stance of refusing to negotiate with strikers. The French President has been quoted as saying, “A small majority cannot be allowed to impose its law on the majority.”

With major strikes taking place on both sides of the ocean, we are given a rare opportunity to assess the use of union printing by strikers in America vs. strikers overseas.

In France, unions seem to favor banner printing, as well as large signs, flags, and even carnival-esque masks and costumes. The benefit of carrying these enormous banners is that it demonstrates unity amongst strikers. In some cases, it takes half a dozen people or more to hold these huge pieces of union printing.

Conversely, WGA and Local One stagehand strikers show a preference from poster-sized signs that are handled without difficulty by the individual. Compact, easily transported flyer printing is also used to spread the strikers' message quickly through the streets of major cities.

In the U.S., particularly in the case of the WGA, an effort has been made to coordinate union printing style and color. Like banner printing in France, this is an effective tactic for showing the solidarity between unions that are striking with the writers.

In France, on the other hand, crowd shots show a fabulous diversity of union printing styles and colors. While this strategy may take away from the impression of a unified front, it does demonstrate that there exists an overwhelming number of striking unions, concerned with the future of labor in France.

Beyond union printing, the most impressive overall contrast between U.S. and European strikers is the tone set on the picket line. While WGA strikers march stoically in front of studios, French strikers parade through the streets, the use of flags, flares and fireworks bringing an almost revolutionary or apocalyptic tone to their struggle.

There is something altogether wild and dangerous about the banners and full color printing on display in France, while in the U.S., union printing conveys a sense of control and professional purpose that is matched by the well-ordered action taking place on the picket line. Which is a more effective strategy for strikers? You tell me.


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