Diamond industry

The diamond industry in Amsterdam was flourishing around 1890; it employed around 1200 workers. They generally worked under poor conditions. The limit was reached in 1894. Workers marched in protest past all of the diamond-cutting factories in the city. The crowd assembled behind the Rijksmuseum (museum). It was then decided to establish the Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkers Bond (ANDB) (General Dutch Diamond Cutters’ Union).

 

Building of diamond cutter's union A.N.D.B. at Henri Polaklaan 9. Photo: City Archive Amsterdam

Idealism

The ANDB was very successful. For example, workers were allowed one week’s holiday for the first time in 1910. The 8-hour working day was introduced a year later. Chairman Henri Polak (1868-1943) and vice-chairman Jan van Zuthpen (1863-1958) not only wanted to improve the position of the workers on the shop floor, but also to raise the workers in a social sense. Which is why members were stimulated to educate themselves in culture.

 

The interior of the A.N.D.B. diamond union building. Photo: City Archive Amsterdam

 

Burcht van Berlage

The ANDB acquired a monumental union building in 1900 in the form of the Plantage Franschelaan (presently the Henri Polaklaan) (street), designed by the architect H.P. Berlage (1856-1934). It became a fortress from which the union could defend the interests of its members. Beauty and harmony made up an integrated part of the design, in which the ideals of the socialist movement were expressed as well. The allegorical wall paintings in the meeting hall are from the hand of R.N. Roland Holst (1868-1938).

 

Poster for the diamond cutter's union, by R.N. Roland Holst, 1904. Photo: City Archive Amsterdam

NVV

The Nederlands Verbond van Vakverenigingen (NVV) (Dutch Federation of Employer’s Organisations), the predecessor of the FNV (Trade Union Confederation), was established in this oldest union building in the Netherlands in 1905. It currently accommodates the Centrum voor Arbeidsverhoudingen (Centre for Labour relations). The building is open to the public during office hours.