The CitroÃ«n factories employ about 40 thousand workers in Paris and its surroundings. A total of 1500 workers are in unions. Inside the factories, the owners organize repression by means of management agents, a private police and a "free union." About 60 percent of the workers are foreign, and they are employed on the more onerous assembly lines.
On Friday, May 17, work stoppages took place in the workshops of numerous factories. Such an event had not occurred for decades. On that day several workers went to the Censier Center of the University of Paris and described the police repression, the impotence of the union, and the fighting spirit of the workers. The factory workers, they said, were ready to stop work on the coming Monday if pickets were available and if the information were spread through the factories. Together with the CitroÃ«n workers, Censier students prepared a leaflet to be distributed the following day at all the CitroÃ«n plants.
The following day, Saturday, the CGT ( General Confederation of Labor ) distributed a leaflet calling for a strike on Monday and demanding a minimum wage of 600 NF ( about US $120 ) a month. Numerous factories all over France were already on strike. At CitroÃ«n the CGT had a very small membership; was the CGT taking the initiative, it was asked, in order to gain control of a movement which up to this point had been out of its control?