Aubry joined the PS in 1974, and was appointed Minister of Labour by Prime Minister Édith Cresson in 1991, but lost her position in 1993 after the Right won the legislative elections. However, she became Minister of Social Affairs when Lionel Jospin was appointed Prime Minister in 1997. She is mostly known for having pushed the popular 35-hour workweek law, known as the "Loi Aubry", reducing the nominal length of the normal full-time working week from 39 to 35 hours, and the law that created Couverture maladie universelle (Universal health care coverage).
Aubry stepped down from her Cabinet post in 2001 to be elected Mayor of Lille in place of Pierre Mauroy. Aubry subsequently lost her seat in the National Assembly in the general election of 2002. In March 2008, she was re-elected Mayor of Lille, with 66.55% of the votes.
In November 2008, Aubry was elected to lead the Socialist Party, narrowly defeating Ségolène Royal. While Royal disputed the results, the Socialist Party declared on November 25, 2008, that Aubry had won the contested election. On 28 June 2011, Martine Aubry announced she would seek the Socialist nomination to run in the 2012 presidential election, ultimately losing to François Hollande, her predecessor as First Secretary.
Born in Paris, Aubry is the daughter of Jacques Delors, French Minister of Finance (1981–1985) and European Commission President (1985–1995), and his wife. Aubry was educated at the lycée Notre-Dame-des-Oiseaux and the lycée Paul-Valéry (in Paris). She holds a degree in economic science from Panthéon-Assas University.
She did additional studies, gaining a diploma from the Institut des Sciences Sociales du Travail, and one from the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (or Sciences Po) in 1972. Between 1973 and 1975, Aubry studied at the École nationale d'administration (ÉNA, National School of Administration).
She married Xavier Aubry; they later divorced. She is married to Jean-Louis Brochen.
In 1975 Aubry became a civil administrator at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Ministère du Travail et des Affaires sociales). During this period, she was active within the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT). She became a professor at ÉNA in 1978. In addition, she was seconded to the State Council between 1980 and 1981.
Following the election of François Mitterrand to the French presidency in 1981, Aubry successively held several posts at the Ministry of Social Affairs, in the cabinets of Jean Auroux and Pierre Bérégovoy. In 1984, she investigated French asbestos policy for the Comité Permanent Amiante (Permanent Asbestos Committee, an informal public-private working group formed to manage the health problems of workers affected by asbestos). The group's deputy director, Jean-Luc Pasquier, testified before the courts to account for the group's members' actions.
After the defeat of the socialists in the French legislative election of 1986, Aubry was named Master of Requests at the State Council. From 1989-91 she worked as Assistant Director at Pechiney, working with Jean Gandois. She was involved with the opening of a plant at Dunkerque and the closure of the aluminium works at Noguères.
Aubry was named Minister of Labour, Employment and Vocational Training by Édith Cresson, and carried on in this capacity in the Bérégovoy ministry until March 1993. According to Jean-Luc Pasquier, she supported the controlled use of asbestos whilst all other members of the EEC supported an outright ban. She caused the French veto of a European decree against the use of asbestos. France did not ban asbestos until 1997.
In January 2010, a public health judge charged with investigating former government measures on asbestos had Aubry interrogated by gendarmes in Lille.
When the Right came into power at the French legislative election in 1986, Aubry started the Fondation Agir Contre l'Exclusion (FACE, the Act Against Exclusion Foundation). In 1995, Pierre Mauroy named her as the first deputy to the Mayor of Lille, thus giving her a foothold in the department of Nord.
Lionel Jospin, who became the socialist candidate as French President in 1995, made her his campaign spokesman during the presidential campaign. Upon his defeat, Jospin became first secretary of the Socialist Party, and offered her the number two spot, which Aubry refused.
Aubry had good relations with part of the establishment, especially with her former Pechiney boss, Jean Gandois, and the Parti communiste francais. But she did not get on well with the unions, in particular with Nicole Notat, the former General Secretary of the CFDT
Aubry has been described as hard and demanding. She counters, "Je dis les choses en face, je ne suis pas faux-cul. Mais je crois être bien moins dure que beaucoup de gens en politique. Je suis même peut-être trop sensible. (I'm up-front, and I'm not a hypocrite. But I think I'm much less hard than many politicians. I may even be too sensitive.) "
Elected as a member of the National Assembly, Aubry was appointed in 1997 as Minister of Employment and Solidarity, the most important minister after the Prime Minister. The same year, to fight unemployment, she created a new employment contract for young people (Emplois-jeunes) with financial help from the government. In 1998, a law establishing the 35-hour workweek was adopted.
In 1999, the Couverture maladie universelle (CMU), a program that reimburses medical expenses through social security for everyone, was voted through. Furthermore, for people on low incomes, the CMU offers complementary health coverage of 100%, which is added to standard Social Security payments; this avoids the necessity for additional private (top-up) insurance.
On June 28, 2011, Aubry said in a televised address from the former train station of Lille-Saint-Sauveur : "I have decided to propose my candidacy to the presidential election".
Following the first round of the citizens primary, she faced François Hollande in the second round of voting on October 16 in a two-way runoff. In the final round of voting, Hollande won the nomination with 56.6% of the vote.
After Aubry's defeat in the primaries, she became one of the main supporters of the Francois Hollande presidential campaign. Aubry's name had been mentioned as a potential prime minister for François Hollande. But, after Hollande was elected President, he chose Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister; Aubry refused to join his cabinet.
On several occasions, Aubry expressed criticism of the Manuel Valls government, including the fact that he was chosen. In October 2014, she asked for a reorientation of the economic policy. During a press conference held September 23, 2015, where Aubry confirmed the choice of Pierre de Saintignon as the head of list for the next coming Regional Elections, she said that the bad polls of the list are partly caused by some choices of the government. She was criticising Emmanuel Macron, Minister of Economy since 2014. "Macron? How to tell it... The cup is full" she said.Governmental functions
Minister of Labor, Employment and Training : 1991-1993.
Minister of Employment and Solidarity : 1997-2000 (Resignation).
National Assembly of France
Member of the National Assembly of France for Nord (5th constituency) : Elected in 1997, but became minister in June.
Mayor of Lille : Since 2001. Reelected in 2014.
Deputy-mayor of Lille : 1995-2001.
Municipal councillor of Lille : Since 1995. Reelected in 2001, 2008.
Urban community Council
President of the Urban Community of Lille Métropole : Since 2008.
Vice-president of the Urban Community of Lille Métropole : 1995-2008. Reelected in 2001.
Member of the Urban Community of Lille Métropole : Since 1995. Reelected in 2001, 2008.
First Secretary (leader) of the Socialist Party (France) : 2008-2012.