Monday, April 12, 2010

Will Work For Beer

Article in Saturday's WSJ on workers in Denmark organizing to fight for one of their most basic rights (sub req):

Michael Christiansen, a truck driver turned union representative, is fighting hard to preserve one of the last, best perks of the beer industry: the right to drink on the job.

Mr. Christiansen's union brethren are wort boilers, bottlers, packers and drivers at Carlsberg A/S, Denmark's largest brewer. For a century, they've had the right to cool off during a hard day's work with a crisp lager.

But on April 1, the refrigerators were idled and daily beer spoils were capped at three pint-sized plastic cups from a dining hall during lunch hour.

"This is a right workers have had for 100 years," Mr. Christiansen says. "Carlsberg has taken it away without any negotiating at all."

This week, Mr. Christiansen led a strike of 260 Carlsberg employees at a distribution center in this Copenhagen suburb. On Wednesday, 500 workers at Carlsberg's Fredericia brewery in southern Denmark joined in. On Friday afternoon, Mr. Christiansen sent his men back to work temporarily after management agreed to renegotiate workers' right to free beer in coming weeks.

You gotta love that. Carlsberg is not stripping workers of their right to free beer during work entirely, they're limiting it to only three pints over the lunch hour. Cry Oppression!

Mr. Christiansen, a tall man with a salt-and-pepper goatee, argues the right to tip a cold one at work is as sacred as other rights enjoyed by Copenhagen-based Carlsberg workers, such as a year's sick leave at full pay, an average annual salary of $59,000 and two free crates of beer monthly.

At 2 p.m. here Friday, about 100 workers congregated in a parking lot full of empty beer crates and forklifts and agreed to temporarily end their strike.

"We need to keep our beer," said employee Juseif Izaivi, 32 years old. "I need a beer when I take a cigarette break."

Easy to sympathize with that guy's plight. What's a cigarette break without a beer?
The article goes on to explain that while almost all brewers once rewarded their workers with free beer at work, today very few retain that perk. Here's hoping that the Carlsberg workers win their fight to keep their beer benefit. The fact that there's still an oasis or two out there where you can enjoy a beer at work (in moderation of course) provides the rest of us with a chance to dream of what could be.

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