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In Grim French North, Worker Unrest Looks To Last

For Amiens, with an unemployment rate at 12.5 percent and rising faster than all but one region in France, the future is here.

"Our country - like Europe in general - is on the verge of a social explosion," said Wamen, the union leader. "These who don't listen to the people, who don't listen to the rising anger are, in my opinion, dangerous arsonists because I think we are on the verge of a social explosion."

For Peter Morici, a conservative economist at the University of Maryland, the French need to come to terms with the fact that both their own economic model and that of the European Union have failed them.

"If they cut spending the economy will start to shrink. If they don't cut spending, they will go bankrupt," he said. "The realization is emerging in Europe that Europe is not going to get better."

Morici said it's clearly too late for countries like Greece, Spain and even Italy, where this week's elections called into question the country's very ability to govern itself. And France is out of options, he added.

That realization appears to be sinking in already in Amiens, despite the workers' promises to sue Goodyear and Titan and find a way to keep the factory going.

After a brief protest in the morning, they took a few hours off in the middle of the day before staging another demonstration march. But by mid-afternoon, all but a few dozen of the workers had trickled away, and only a handful returned to the parking lot to burn tires. Those, at least, were easy to find.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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