The ANDB and the ADB
The Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkersbond [General Diamond Workers’ Union of the Netherlands, ANDB], founded in 1894, was the first modern trade union in the Netherlands.
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the diamond industry was an important part of Amsterdam’s economy. In the Cape period (1870-1873) vast quantities of rough diamond were found in South Africa, while demand for polished diamonds soared in the United States. The industry expanded, the number of diamond workers increased, and wages were substantial. After this upswing, the industry declined, cautiously resuming growth in 1894 after the ups and downs that characterized the luxury goods industry. Still, wages remained low, instigating the major strike in November 1894 that culminated in the establishment of the ANDB.
The trade union succeeded in uniting the diverse group of diamond workers (men, women, Jews and non-Jews, highly trained, well-paid cleavers and assistant setters with little training who were paid piecework rates) and achieved spectacular successes. In addition to negotiating higher wages, the trade union was the first in Europe to achieve the 8-hour working day and one week of paid holiday leave.
One of the reasons for this success was the professional organizational structure of the trade union, which had a paid board, rigid union discipline, and well-organized member records.
In addition to material aspects, the trade union promoted personal enrichment for the workers, doing much to enhance knowledge of art and culture. Moreover, the ANDB was active in the Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers to improve the position of diamond workers worldwide and achieve unit rates to keep the industry from ‘disappearing’ to low-wage countries.
In the Netherlands the ANDB was at the cradle of the NVV trade union federation, now the FNV.
On 19 August 1895 the ANDB supported the establishment of the Antwerpse Diamantbewerkersbond [Antwerp General Diamond Workers’ Association]. By doing so, the ANDB leadership hoped to avert relocation of its own industry to Antwerp.
At the strike for the 9-hour working day in 1904, the need for still more cohesive international solidarity was clear. When the Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers was established on 23 May 1905, the ADB provided the secretary.
Although board members were active in the Belgische werkliedenpartij [Belgian workers’ party] (BWP), the ADB maintained its independent position. In 1911 this caused a rift: the Algemeene Belgische Diamantbewerkersbond [General Belgian Diamond Workers’ Union] (ABD) joined the BWP Syndikale Kommissie, while the ADB took the vanguard in the Antwerpse Federatie van (onafhankelijke) vakverenigingen [Antwerp federation of (independent) trade unions].
In 1912 the new president Louis Van Berckelaer arranged a reunification. The ADB joined the Syndikale Kommissie as well. From that point onward, the abbreviation ADB denoted the Algemene Diamantbewerkersbond van België [General Diamond Workers’ Association of Belgium].
When the diamond trade picked up again after the First World War, it was immediately clear that Antwerp had definitively overtaken Amsterdam as the leader in the diamond industry. The reasons included the proliferation of Belgian industry outside the city, the devaluation of the Belgian franc, and cheap rough diamond from the Belgian Congo.
After the Second World War the ADB lost its leadership role.
For additional information, see: Een schitterende erfenis : 125 jaar nalatenschap van de Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkersbond