By ERNIE GOTTA
On Dec. 18, in the middle of a general strike, Gaël Quirante, a French postal worker and trade-union militant of Sud Poste 92 will face not one but two trials. The stakes are high for Gaël and the postal workers he led in a 15 month-long strike that defeated one of France’s largest employers, Le Poste.
Each trial carries with it the stiff penalty of five years in prison and a $75,000 fine. The bosses of Le Poste want judges to punish Gaël to the full extent of the law, 10 years in prison, and $150,000 in fines. They have filed dozens of complaints against Gaël, including the phony accusations of violence and stealing. However, the only violence in this situation comes from Le Poste. The company has been aggressively trying to reorganize their methods of operating to make more profits. They want to pass on more work to letter carriers while suppressing wages and benefits. Similarly, the only thief in this situation is Le Poste, which has consistently made profits off the backs of workers.
Gaël and his cohort of postal workers challenged the company’s ability to exploit without consequences. Today Le Poste is licking its wounds and trying to use a legal system that overwhelmingly favors the bosses, for retribution. The company wants to take back what it lost in the aftermath of the historic strike.
Success in the postal strike was made possible by winning the support of large sections of the working class. Workers also won support from such notable people as British filmmaker Ken Loach and was sustained through the creation of a massive strike fund. Workers across Europe and in the U.S. sold calendars and organized picket lines in solidarity. Postal workers also connected their struggles to the LGBTQIA+ movement, the student movement, and the broader economic and social struggles that we see today unfolding in the general strike against the pension reforms of the Macron government.
Gaël is also a militant of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), which also has had student members at the University of Nanterre targeted by police. The state recognizes the danger posed to the capitalist status quo through a vibrant class struggle, and the Macron government wants to silence all those voices standing on the side of the oppressed.
The recent resignation of the pension reform chief Jean-Paul Delevoye was a direct result of the ongoing general strike. This resignation is a small but important lesson in the power of workers mobilized in the streets. The general strike can be a serious advantage for the Gaël’s defense. But as the holidays draw close, there will be a lot of pressure on the unions and rank and file to settle. In particular, most of the pressure will be on the rail workers who are leading the general strike and have shut down the ability to travel across much of France. The question remains: Will the atmosphere and militancy that is currently paralyzing Paris win Gaël’s freedom from criminal charges or will the state look to make an example of him?
While postal workers proved that it is possible to take on Macron and the bosses and win, the fight for Gael’s freedom is far from over. Trade unionists and activists will need to build the same solidarity and enthusiasm as they did during the postal strike. This will start on Dec. 18 with a rally and concert.
Workers in the U.S. can play an important role in building solidarity for Gaël. Let’s begin by posting solidarity videos and pictures of our union coworkers, student groups, or community activist groups. Tell the French government, “Hands off Gaël! Drop all the charges! Victory for Gaël and the general strike!”