Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Liberté, Egalité … and Shopping on Sunday

Retail workers want to overturn a 1906 law limiting store hours
Libert??, Egalit???????????and Shopping on Sunday
Photograph by Nathan Alliard/Getty Images

On a sunny October Sunday, cashiers at the Leroy Merlin home-improvement store in the Paris suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine are ringing up caulk guns, kitchen faucets, paintbrushes, drywall, and other do-it-yourself essentials. They’re also breaking the law. Most French stores are forbidden to open on Sundays and must close no later than 9 p.m. on weekdays. Social reformers enacted the restrictions in 1906 to guarantee that workers could relax and see their families. More than a century later, with joblessness at 11 percent and many people seeking flexible work schedules, workers are fighting back—not only against the law but also against labor unions pressing for tougher enforcement by authorities who often let violators go unpunished.