'Mona Lisa's' Guards Go on Strike

At the world's most famous museum, the attendants are manning the barricades. The ticket windows are blocked off, and the Louvre has been forced to let tourists in for free.

More than 8 million people visit the Louvre each year. Most make a beeline for the two biggest attractions: the "Venus de Milo" and the "Mona Lisa."

Managing all those tour groups and picture takers, as well as the countless fans of "The Da Vinci Code" is downright stressful!

At least that's what the museum's attendants say.

"Do you imagine what stress it is?" said Nathalie Ovichet, a union organizer. "They stand for eight hours a day without the the right to speak, to move, to do anything. To sit in a chair without doing anything?"

"It's very stressful," she said, "and very exhausting."

A Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans were stressed out by their jobs. Things are usually a bit different in France, though, where workers get a lot more perks on the job.

The French enjoy a 35-hour workweek and a minimum five weeks of vacation a year. They also get mandatory cigarette breaks because of the recent ban on indoor smoking.

And now, on top of all that, the museum attendants at the Louvre want a raise!

They're asking for an extra $250 a month to work near the "Mona Lisa," and an extra $150 a month to stand by "Venus de Milo." That averages out to about a 10 percent pay hike.

"It's typical French, isn't it? They're quite good at getting together and standing up for their rights," said Bob Butler, a tourist.

"Mona Lisa's" guardians are angry, and the striking workers have also shut down parts of the Versailles and the Musee d'Orsay in addition to their ongoing protest at the Louvre.

When asked whether she thought this was the beginning of a revolution, Ovichet said, "I expect so."

Remember: The Louvre first opened to the public during the French Revolution. Clearly that spirit is alive and kicking.

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