Should We Be Going Dutch?

Oct 26, 2011

dutch.jpgWe just had the pleasure of our first meeting with Linde Gonggrijp, the director of FNV Zelfstandigen, which is the independent-worker arm of the Dutch Trade Union Federation. Though the FNV is a traditional trade union with a history of focusing on craftsmanship, Linda is interested in questions of how the union can lend strength to entrepreneurs, and how ideas of entrepreneurship can lend fresh ideas and direction to the union. Your average freelancer in Amsterdam, it turns out, faces many of the same challenges as one in Austin: being incorrectly classified, not getting a pension or retirement plan, not having disability benefits. (Health care’s a different ball game entirely though.) Our conversation was one filled with Oh, us too! moments between Ms. Gonggrijp and our Executive Director Sara Horowitz – from the challenges of finding a model that can sustain your work (the FNV currently charges dues; Freelancers Union operates as a social enterprise) to figuring out how the new workforce fits into existing economic and social systems. I was personally impressed with certain ideas the FNV had. One proposal to handle periods of unemployment is for an independent worker to have the “right to keep all the working years built up in paid employment, so that he or she can fall back on them” in case he or she is fired from a full-time job in the future. Otherwise, the entrepreneur is building up employment history from scratch. Seems obvious to me! Another great idea? Pregnancy leave! The FNV wants pregnancy leave for self-employed women to be publicly regulated, “from the viewpoint of equal treatment of men and women, increasing the participation of women, support of entrepreneurship and protection of the health of mothers and their children.”* Go Netherlands! We’re thrilled to encounter kindred spirits in new and unexpected places, and hope we’ll have some international Skype calls to keep trading notes on all that’s new in the new workforce . . . worldwide. *Quotes taken from “The Dynamic Triangle: Sole Traders and the FNV,” 2007. photo by Ariane Colenbrander