Nederlanders willen dat vakbonden zich veel harder opstellen

Update: Een zeer ruime meerderheid heeft voor de fusieplannen gestemd - Vorige maand werden plannen voor de vorming van een nieuwe vakbond met ongeveer een miljoen leden in de koelkast gezet. De fusieplannen haalden net geen tweederde meerderheid op het congres van FNV Bondgenoten. Op 26 november wordt er opnieuw gestemd.

Vertegenwoordigers van werkgeversorganisaties reageerden teleurgesteld op de voorlopige afwijzing van de fusieplannen. Ze hadden gehoopt dat de fusie zou resulteren in een stabiele vakbond die een constructieve rol zal spelen in de polderinstituties.

Dat is precies wat de vakbeweging de afgelopen jaren heeft gedaan. Zo wordt er in Nederland bijvoorbeeld weinig gestaakt in vergelijking met andere landen. Maar de groeiende ongelijkheid en de afbrokkeling van de verzorgingsstaat roepen de vraag op of polderen wel genoeg is. Sommige groepen werknemers, zoals schoonmakers en zorgverleners, hebben met succes assertievere methodes ingezet in hun strijd voor fatsoenlijk loon en betere arbeidsomstandigheden.

Sinds 2007 vragen onderzoekers van de Universiteit van Tilburg regelmatig aan een panel van ongeveer 6.000 respondenten wat zij verwachten van de vakbonden. Meer specifiek vragen ze aan de respondenten of ze het eens zijn met de stelling «De vakbonden moeten een veel hardere politiek voeren willen zij de belangen van de werknemers kunnen behartigen». In de meest recente editie van het onderzoek was 44% het hier (helemaal) mee eens en slechts 13% (helemaal) oneens.

De steun voor een hardere opstelling van vakbonden is de afgelopen jaren eerder toe- dan afgenomen. Opvallend is dat ook onder zzp’ers en onder mensen die in 2012 op VVD of D66 hebben gestemd, meer respondenten het eens dan oneens zijn met de stelling dat vakbonden zich veel harder op moeten stellen. Respondenten in de hoogste inkomensgroep vormen één van de weinige groepen die hier minder enthousiast over zijn.

Afgelopen weekend lichtte voorzitter Ton Heerts in de Telegraaf de koers van de FNV toe: «volgens mij hebben wij het afgelopen jaar bewezen dat inhoud, overleg en actie voeren prima samengaan. Met de rechtse wind die in Nederland waait worden die accenten eerder naar acties verlegd. Dat is prima.»

Een eerdere versie van het artikel is hier te vinden.

As trade unions consider merger, the Dutch want their unions to take a much tougher stance

A large majority has voted in favour of the merger - A plan to create a new Dutch union with about 1 million members was put on hold in October, when the plan just failed to get a two-thirds majority at the convention of FNV Bondgenoten, one of the unions involved in the merger plans. A new vote will take place on 26 November.

Representatives of employers’ organisations expressed disappointment at the initial rejection of the merger. They had been hoping the merger would result in a stable trade union that will play a constructive role in the elaborate social dialogue institutions of the Dutch «polder model».

In fact, that’s exactly what Dutch unions have been doing over the past decades, as evidenced by their low strike rates. But with growing inequality and an erosion of the welfare state going on, doubts arise whether social dialogue is enough. Some groups of workers, like cleaners and health care workers, have successfully resorted to more assertive campaign methods to fight for decent pay and better working conditions.

Since 2007, researchers of the University of Tilburg have been asking a panel of about 6,000 respondents what they expect of unions. More specifically, they have asked respondents whether they agree that «Trade unions should take a much tougher political stance, if they wish to promote the workers’ interests». In the latest edition of the study, 44% (strongly) agree and only 13% (strongly) disagree.

If anything, support for tougher unions seems to have grown over the past years. Surprisingly, even among the self-employed and among people who voted for neoliberal parties like VVD and D66 in 2012, more respondents agree than disagree that unions should take a much tougher stance. High-income respondents are among the few groups that are not so keen on tougher unions.

Last weekend, chairman Ton Heerts explained the position of the FNV to the Telegraaf newspaper: «I think we’ve proven over the past year that it’s quite possible to combine substance, dialogue and action. With the current wave of right-wing policies, the emphasis will be more on actions. That’s fine.»

An earlier version of this analysis was published here

Identifying «communists» at the New York Times, by 1955 US Army criteria

A while ago, Open Culture wrote about a 1955 US Army manual entitled How to spot a communist. According to the manual, communists have a preference for long sentences and tend to use expressions like:

integrative thinking, vanguard, comrade, hootenanny, chauvinism, book-burning, syncretistic faith, bourgeois-nationalism, jingoism, colonialism, hooliganism, ruling class, progressive, demagogy, dialectical, witch-hunt, reactionary, exploitation, oppressive, materialist.

What happened in the 1950s is pretty terrible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of fun with the manual. I used the New York Times Article Search API to look up which of its writers actually use terms like hootenanny, book-burning and jingoism. The results are summarised below.

Interestingly, many of the users of «communist» terms are either foreign correspondents or art, music and film critics. While it’s possible that people who have an affinity with the arts tend to sympathise with communism, an alternative explanation would be that critics have more freedom than «regular» journalists to use somewhat exotic and expressive terms like the ones the US Army associated with communism.

Also of interest is that one of the current writers on the list is Ross Douthat, the main conservative columnist of the New York Times. In his articles, he uses terms like materialist, oppressive, reactionary, exploitation, vanguard, ruling class, progressive and chauvinism. Surely he wouldn’t be a reformed communist - would he?


The New York Times Article Search API is a great tool, but you have to keep in mind that digitising the archive isn’t an entirely error-free process. For example, sometimes bits of information end up in the lastname field that don’t belong there (e.g. "lastname": "DURANTYMOSCOW"). While it’s possible to correct some of these issues, it’s likely that search results will in some way be incomplete.

To get a manageable dataset, I looked up all articles containing any combination of two terms from the manual. I then calculated a score for each author by simply counting the number of unique terms they have used.

An alternative would have been to correct for the total number of articles per author in the NYT archive. It took me a while to figure out how to search by author using the NYT API. It turns out you can search for terms appearing in the byline using ?fq=byline:("firstname middlename lastname") - even though this option isn’t mentioned in the documentation. I’m not entirely sure such a search will return articles where the byline/original field is empty.

As you might expect, there’s a correlation between the number of articles per author and the number of unique terms this author has used.

All in all, it would be possible to calculate a relative score, for example number of terms used per 1,000 articles, but this may have unintended consequences. To take an extreme example: an author who has written one article which happened to contain three terms would get a score of 3,000 using this method, whereas an author who has thousands of articles and consistently uses a broad range of terms but not at a rate of three per article would get a (considerably) lower score.

I decided to stick with the absolute number of unique terms per author. This has the disadvantage that authors who have written few articles are unlikely to show up in the analysis, but I’m not sure that this problem can be adequately solved by calculating a relative score.

The Python and R code used to collect and analyse the data is available on Github.

Map: How the fastfood workers’ fight just went global

In November 2012, fastfood workers in New York went on strike for decent wages. Since, the fight has spread rapidly in the US and on 15 May, it went global. There were actions in cities like Dublin, Mumbai, São Paulo, Bandung, Kagoshima and many others. Security workers at Amsterdam Airport, who had just had their own action for real jobs, also showed their support.

The map above shows cities mentioned in tweets with the hashtag #FastFoodGlobal.


The map above doesn’t even do justice to the scope of the action. For one thing, many other hashtags were used besides #FastFoodGlobal (e.g., #fastfoodstrike, #fightfor15, #raisethewage, #lowpayisnotok, and, quite often actually, #ronaldmacdonald). Further, it only captures references in the Latin alphabet, and only the transcription used by Wikipedia.

I used the Twitter API to collect some 50,000 tweets with the hashtag #FastFoodGlobal. I checked the text of these tweets agains a list of cities with a population of 100,000 and over. Of course, it’s impossible to identify cities with 100% accuracy. I removed cities like Van (Turkish city but also a word in Spanish and Dutch) and Hamburg (cf. hamburger) as well as cities mentioned less than 25 times. The map is based on a tutorial by D3 Tips and Tricks.

Giro, Tour and Vuelta: which countries won jerseys over the past 111 yrs

The graph below shows which countries have been successful at winning jerseys in the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

The graph shows among other things how France has been struggling since the 1990s, how Belgium (Eddy Merckx) and the Netherlands (Joop Zoetemelk, Gerrie Knetemann) did well in the 1970s and the success of the UK in the 2010s (Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish). If you adjust for population size (not shown), Luxembourg and Belgium are the most successful countries.

See also: Mountains and cycling culture: On winning jerseys in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta.


The analysis is limited to the jerseys for the leaders of the general classification (the maglia rosa for the Giro d’Italia, the maillot jaune for the Tour de France and whatever colour the leader’s jersey had in the Vuelta a España that particular year). For each year and for each tour, for each rider who has won a jersey in that tour (regardless of how many days) a point was added to the country total of that rider’s country.
The D3 tooltip code is largely borrowed from D3 Tips and Tricks.