Ever wonder why France has the best health care system in the world according to the WHO?  Or why it has such great unemployment benefits?  And such generous retirement benefits?   And essentially free public education, including higher education?

And why French workers enjoy a shorter work week and much longer vacations than their American counterparts?  And why the French workers are sufficiently relaxed and motivated that their productivity in terms of output per person hour (the proper measure, and not the bogus metric, output per year) is higher than that of harried, insecure Americans according to Nobel memorial prize winning economist Paul Krugman?

Behold the fine art of bossnapping to learn the answer.

Luc Rousselet, the manager of 3M’s pharmaceutical factory in Pithiviers, a scant 50 miles from Paris, can tell you all about it.  He is the latest in a growing list of executives to be meted out this form of justice.   You see, 3M is busy laying off thousands of workers around the world to preserve profits in this economic downturn.  France was to be no exception with Pithiviers scheduled to lose 110 jobs out of 235 and 40 more workers to be transferred.  3M’s man, Luc, was announcing the cuts when the workers decided they had had enough.  Feeling threatened, Luc beat a hasty retreat to his office where he found himself held captive for 24 hours.  Bossnap!

Luc was set free when 3M agreed to resume negotiations with the union.  Pleased to regain his liberty, 3M’s man in Pithiviers exclaimed that he was “happy” for the workers and that he recognized “this was a difficult lay-off plan for them.”  The workers shouted back “Scoundrel boss,” evidently failing to grasp Luc’s new found sympathy.

According to CNN, Maryse Bulte, 44, one of the workers, said: “Initially we didn’t want to hold him. We just sought talks and concrete results.”   “It was despair and distress which made us do this,” chimed in Cyril Foufelle, 36.

More importantly, in polling, a majority of French workers find such actions understandable, in part because the napped bosses are fed and treated well – not exactly the reciprocal of what they dish out.  And bossnapping is getting to be increasingly frequent in France.  It is one response to the increasing wave of layoffs spreading over France as the made in the USA economic crises ripples outward.

According to the BBC the targets are the bosses of large enterprises, international conglomerates, whether French or foreign owned, with smaller businesses largely spared.  Last week the head of Sony in France suffered a similar overnight internment until talks were reopened over a plant closing.  The list is growing   That is on top of a million striking workers demanding in a mass protest that President Sarkozy do more to protect jobs.  The racist Sarkozy came to national prominence and ultimately won the Presidency based on his attacks on rebellious, unemployed African and Arab youth in the banlieues.   The same Sarkozy has no more sympathy for the actions of other French workers, calling instead for more law and order, the same verdict he pronounced on the banelieues, now coming home to roost on the native French work force.  Thus ever, with racism.

The sort of militancy seen in France is occasionally popping up in the U.S. in recent times.  But there is not nearly enough of it to turn things in the direction of decency and humanity – whether it be on single-payer health care, ending Obama’s wars or fighting unemployment.  On the last, we have not heard the slogan, “35 hours work for 40 hours pay” for too long a time.

So enough of France.  3M is right here.  Over to you, Minnesota.

JOHN V. WALSH marvels at Sarkozy’s insistence that the entrepreneur is the source of wealth until he gets around to proposing a lengthening of the work week again when suddenly he discovers that it is labor that produces wealth. He can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

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John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

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