Over 9600 tonnes (~10582 U.S. tons) of waste is rotting away in the streets and sidewalks of Paris, as garbage collectors continue to strike. The sanitation workers are protesting President Emmanuel Macron's decision to raise the country's retirement age from 62 to 64, and theirs from 57 to 59. He forced the change without a parliamentary vote which inflamed the issue, and not just with garbage workers.
While legal under France's constitution, the move has infuriated opposition parties and led to spontaneous street protests, presenting the greatest challenge to the president's authority since the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests of 2018.
Refinery strikes escalated on Saturday and rolling strikes continued on the railways as Philippe Martinez, the leader of the CGT union federation, said Macron had been "warned that the situation was explosive. No one can say we didn't say anything; we told him."
Now, nearly three weeks after the collectors' strike began, foul-smelling garbage is piling up, rats are thriving, and residents are being encouraged to wear masks to protect them from disease. However, polls show that the majority of French support the protest.
"I prefer Chanel to the stink," joked Vincent Salazar, a 62-year-old artistic consultant who lives in a tony Left Bank neighborhood. A pile of garbage sits at the corner of his building overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens.
"I've seen rats," he said.
But like many nonchalant and strike-hardened Parisians, Salazar doesn't mind.
"I'm fortunate to live here, but I'm 200% behind these guys," Salazar said. "They're smelling it all day long," he said, though "it" wasn't the word he used. "They should get early retirement."