From Iceland — Immigrant-Heavy List Wins Elections In Major Icelandic Labour Union

Immigrant-Heavy List Wins Elections In Major Icelandic Labour Union

Published March 7, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Elections last night for the board of the labour union Efling saw a huge victory for B-list, a candidate list comprised in large part by immigrants and led by an Icelander promising radical changes.

Voter turnout was decidedly low in the elections. With only 2,618 ballots cast out of a total of 16,578 potential voters, only just over 15% of eligible union members participated. However, the ballots cast were overwhelmingly in favour of B-list, winning 2,099 votes against the 519 received by the current board. Six ballots were blank and four were ruled invalid.

The election marks a major turning point for Efling. As the union of unskilled workers, it is one of the largest in Iceland, but has had the same chair, Sigurður Bessason, for 18 years. Within days of his resignation, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and seven others pulled together to form B-list and threw their hat in the ring.

From there, the race was on. B-list campaigned heavily, in Icelandic, English and Polish (as Poles comprise the largest ethnic minority in Iceland), and the fact that nearly 50% of Efling’s membership is comprised of foreigners certainly played a part in their success.

The race was not always clean, however. A-list, representing the status quo of Efling, accused B-list of being political, and there were complaints lodged that foreigners attempting to vote at Efling headquarters were told that B-list would offer nothing but continuous strikes if they won. Efling leadership at the time denied these complaints.

Apart from ensuring actual representation of immigrants on the board of an immigrant-heavy union, B-list also offered radical changes to the union’s practices, promising to fight harder for the interests of working people than the previous board had done. Some of the points they have emphasised in their campaign included affordable housing, greater transparency of the pension fund, and increased democratisation of the union and society as a whole.

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