Jun 062012
 

Our man in Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

In October 2010, squatting became illegal in the Netherlands. In the US, where private property rights are so sacrosanct as to be virtually unquestionable, the thought that a person might have the legal right to make their home in or on someone else’s unused property is probably enough to make most peoples’ heads explode. But for most of the past fifty years, squatting was, under certain conditions, entirely legal and squatters (krakers in Dutch) enjoyed full legal protection.

this Amsterdam squat recently screened Squatted Freedom and hosted a talk by Michael Hardt. Photo by Michael Marchman

The right to take over an abandoned building and to legally claim it as your home, art studio, bar or community center, is one of the conditions (along with legalized prostitution and soft drugs, of course) that has given rise to the Netherlands’, and in particular, Amsterdam’s international image as a place of tolerance and unparalleled individual freedom. (Or, if you are a devotee of Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor, as “a cesspool of corruption, crime [where] everything is out of control. It’s anarchy!”). Continue reading »

May 022012
 

Our man in Amsterdam helps bring The Coup to Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

When I got an email from a friend and fellow activist a few weeks ago asking if I was interested in helping to arrange a show in Amsterdam for the Oakland-based revolutionary hip-hop band, The Coup, I nearly choked on my bitterballen.

Our Man and Woman in Amsterdam with entourage and Boots Riley. Photo courtesy IIRE.

I’ve been listening to The Coup for well over a decade. They’ve basically provided the soundtrack for my own political activism over the past ten years. Not only am I a big fan of the group, I’ve followed and admired Boots Riley’s, the front man’s, work as an organizer and agitator for a long time. Continue reading »

May 022012
 

Update on FNV Bondgenoten

By our man in Amsterdam

In the March issue of NoC, I wrote about an important struggle happening in the Netherlands. This struggle is centered around a strike by the Dutch cleaners union (FNV Bondgenoten) over declining wages, increased workloads and cuts in benefits. When that column was written, the strike was in its twelfth week and was already the longest strike in the Netherlands since 1933. The cleaners provide janitorial services at universities, train stations, airports, hospitals, and a number of major corporations.

Cleaners sit-in at Utrecht University. Photo courtesy www.schoongenoeg.nu.

Continue reading »

Apr 042012
 

Our man in Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

An inspiring and very promising movement is taking shape in the Netherlands. And it is one from which unions, workers, and students in the US and around the world might be able to learn. University students and faculty members, who are fighting cuts to higher education, have joined with blue-collar workers, specifically cleaners and caterers, who are in a heated battle with their employers over deteriorating wages and working conditions.

The movement is being built around a strike by the Dutch cleaners union, FNV Bondgenoten, which is now in its twelfth week. The cleaners provide contracted custodial services for large companies, such as the Dutch electronics giant Philips, and a range of public institutions, including government ministries, universities, Schiphol International Airport, and Dutch Railways. Continue reading »

Mar 072012
 

Our man in Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

It’s been a year since my partner, Stephanie, and I became international migrant workers. We moved to the Netherlands from Lexington last January after Stephanie was offered a two-year research fellowship at the University of Amsterdam. We were excited by the opportunity and not a little bit relieved. Stephanie had just completed her PhD and had been looking, unsuccessfully, for a job for over a year. And several months earlier, due to budget cuts and restructuring, I lost the teaching job that I’d had for four years at Northern Kentucky University.

Sign from Greek solidarity rally at the Beursplein in Amsterdam, February 18. Photo courtesy of our comrades REinFORM.nl

As an adjunct instructor working on a year-to-year contract with limited benefits, I was well aware of the precarious state of my employment. I knew that it could dry up at any moment. But being aware of your own economic insecurity doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the sudden loss of your job. So when my contract was not renewed after my fourth year at NKU, I found myself suddenly unemployed. To make matters worse, since I’d been hired on a fixed short-term contract (as so many of us working in higher education are these days) I wasn’t technically fired or laid off—my contract was simply allowed to expire. As a result, I wasn’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Continue reading »