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Ég er bara fræg!

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For the past year I have been organising a Free Supermarket at Andrými. Last week I was interviewed by RUV (the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) for a radio program. You can listen to it (and my brilliant Icelandic) here. You can use it as a drinking game, drink every time I say "bara" (a filler word), you won't make it until the end of the 10 min interview.

They insisted on using my last name in the description, but forgot to ask about the spelling and ended up with "Christina Milscha" thanks to my Aachener accent. Everyone at my work still recognized my voice. With this and all the videos I have been doing for the IWW (more about that in another post), I am well on my way becoming a celebrity.





Christmas beer - a map!

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Here is a map of all the craft breweries in Iceland, except the newest ones, Ladies Brewery and Bölgerðin. I remember the dark times before 2007, when the only beer you could get was watery lager. "Fortunately" Icelanders have been drinking more alcohol than ever in the past year, so it is likely that the craft brewery movement survived the drop in business with the lack of tourists coming into the country.

map_of_craft_breweries


Industrial unionism

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Last year the flight attendants were fired by in the middle of negotiations for a new collective agreement, in a blatant disregard by Icelandair for Icelandic labour law. They planned to go on strike in response and in an act of complete lack of solidarity the pilot and their union (FÍA) openly planned to break the strike and take on the tasks of the flight attendants (also not legal under Icelandic labour law, but it seems to have lost all it's meaning anyway). If you want to know more about the whole Icelandair saga from last year (and the insane amount of taxpayer money going their way in form of loans by the government), you can watch my video on it here.

The CEO of Icelandair has been chosen the businessman of the year 2020 by the Icelandic economic newspaper. Because if you rely on government handouts for your business to survive and break Icelandic labour law, you are an example to follow, I guess. For the pilots, helping to undermine labour law did not turn out so great. The pilot union was negotiating a new collective agreement with Bláfugl (a cargo airline) in December, when all the pilots employed as wage employees were fired and told that from next year on Bláfugl was only going to hire contractors. The firings were legal this time, as the old collective agreement was still in place, but the pattern of union busting is clear (a similar approach had already been used by tour bus companies since 2019, but they mainly employ foreigners, so nobody cared).

The legal system seems ill equipped to handle these cases, ASÍ (confederation of unions) did not want to pursue Icelandair in court, and for FÍA there does not seem to be a legal way to stop employers from forcing workers to work as contractors, even if they are clearly only seemingly self employed. We increasingly see employers pit different group of workers against each other, pilots against flight attendants, wage employees against contractors and it has weakened the labour movement immensely in the last two years alone. Here is a case to be made for organizing industrially, instead of each union just focusing on their one small group of workers. And one inspiring example of industrial unionizing has just sprung up, at Google of all places.

Alphabet Workers Union is an industrial union. They do not only organize full time employees, but also temporary employees, vendors, and contractors. They understand that the power of the union comes directly from the ability of workers at the workplace to organize and control the means of production. Their explicit goal, as a union, is not only to negotiate wages every few years, but to give workers control over their workplace. And even before they became an official union they have had immense successes, all of which can be found here.

Icelandic unions are stuck in the trade union system of the 1990s, where the only role of the union is to negotiate a collective agreement. They reduced organizing and control over workplaces in return for institutional and political legitimacy. Icelandic employers have learned to undermine this system, the cases of Icelandair and FÍA are just an escalation of developments in the past 10 years, developments we foreigners have felt for the longest time, being the canary in the coal mine due to our vulnerable position in Icelandic society. Fortunately for Iceland, foreign unions, who have had to react and adapt to union busting for a much longer time, have found ways to use the basic building blocks of unionizing to regain control. All we have to do is learn from their example.

Organize! Organize! Organize!


Christmas beer - the missing ones

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I was not quick enough in buying Christmas beer and missed the Christmas beers of three breweries, Gæðingur, Einfalt and Bölgerðin.

Gæðingur is one of the older micro-breweries in Iceland it was founded in 2011 in Skagafjörður, close to Blöduós, where I lived for several years. Gæðingur is the Icelandic word for a good horse, Skagafjörður is famous for it's tradition in horse breeding. A lot of people own horses and while I was there, I learned how to ride a horse and witnessed Landsmót, the Icelandic horse festival. So if you ever go to Skagafjörður, visit Gæðingur brewery and ride some horses! (But do not ride drunk, though this is an Icelandic tradition.

From one of the places I used to live to another, Ölverk is located in Hveragerði, a 45 minute drive away from Reykjavík. They were founded in 2017 and are not only a brewery, but also a pizza place. When I lived in Hveragerði, the only pizza available was from a Dominos style pizza place, which traumatized me, by introducing me to the fact that the Icelandic version of 4 cheeses pizza has blue cheese on it. I have not been to Ölverk, but heard good things, so if you visit (it is worth it, there are good hiking trails through areas with hot springs around Hveragerði) or pass through and feel like pizza go and check them out.

The last one, Bölgerðin, was founded in 2020. They do not have a website yet, their beer is only available in the Icelandic State Alcohol stores as of now, as they prioritized getting their beer into stores over having it on tap in bars, because of covid. The website of the Icelandic State Alcohol store tells me they only have three beers out, additionally to their Christmas beer and TWO of them are a sour. Not off to a good start....


Christmas beer - Malbygg

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Another Brewery in Reykjavík and another one founded in the past five years (this one in 2017). They specialise in IPAs and Sours, and therefore should not be my friends. They collaborate with a bar I like though (because of their amazing jalapeño cheese dip pretzel), so they are forgiven. If your taste is different from mine (and wrong) you can check them out here.

Smidjan_ChristmasBeer

Like Smiðjan they have 3 Christmas beers, which come in 0.5l cans, so beer tasting was again done in collaboration with random friends. Jeff features again with Jólakisi (the Christmas cat, not pictured), another IPA. He really liked it, I found it very drinkable, it was sparkely and refreshing. Not very fitting to the name, the Icelandic Christmas cat, is a monster, which eats childeren, who have not gotten new clothes for Christmas. Maybe I start to acquire a taste for IPAs.
One thing I will definitely never aquire a taste for are sours. Malbygg have one sour as a Christmas beer Djús Kristur, a kettlesour with mandarine and vanilla. The name is a pun on Jesús Kristus, Icelandic for Jesus Christ, djús means juice. I tried this and the following beer with Friggi. We were trying to write bylaws for a workers' coop and decided it will go better with beer (it didn' t). We both were not impressed. It tastes like a sour version of a really flat, cheap orange lemonade. Or maybe an orange juice made from concentrate with too much water used.
We quickly moved on to the next beer, Hnetubrjótur, a hazelnut milkstout. This beer is like drinking liquified chocolate nut brownies. It is nice, to drink after dinner as some sort of dessert, I would not have it all the time, though. It does work very well as a Christmas beer and is not an IPA or a sour, so points for that.

I really would like to go and have a beer and pretzel with jalapeño cheese dip now, is the plaque over yet? Goals for 2021, I guess.


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