From Iceland — Reykjavik's First Worker-Run Café Hopes To Open Soon

Reykjavik’s First Worker-Run Café Hopes To Open Soon

Published July 2, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Dani Guindo

The worker’s cooperative FRAKTAL has their sights set on opening Reykjavík’s first ever worker-run vegan café, and have launched a fundraiser to help make that dream a reality.

“We are basically a workplace run by its workers. We are all equal members of this cooperative, all decisions are taken either by consensus or vote,” Christina Milcher, a worker for the group, told The Grapevine. “We are all equal members of this cooperative, all decisions are taken either by consensus or vote.”

Another member, Raphaël Alexandre, re-iterated this, saying, “We’re our own bosses and our core rule is ‘one person = one vote’. If anyone new is brought in, then according to our by-laws, this person becomes an equal member with an equal vote.”

A co-op differentiates itself from other companies in many ways, mostly in that all workers have an equal say and how the café is run and in sharing the revenue generated.

“This is very different from being in a capital-owned corporation,” Raphaël says. “In our worker-owned model, no decision rights are granted to the capital. By doing so, the share of wealth is in the hands of the people who create it, the workers. You cannot make money without putting any work in, just because you hold shares, in our co-op this is simply not possible.”

The minds behind the project tell the Grapevine that this project was inspired by the limitations of current labour struggles, and also to simply materialise a different way of running a workplace.

“A few of us, who were already IWW members, wanted to create the cooperative as an alternative model, because it’s a model that doesn’t exist in practice in Iceland,” Christina says. “There were also people who had worked in cafés, and wanted to do this democratically, without exploitation, and we just found each other.”

“A few of us were deeply involved in the strikes and negotiation process between [the employer association] SA and [labour union] Efling last year” Raphaël says. “After acknowledging the limits of the exercise, we decided to open a new front to fight for a fair share of wealth and treatment for workers. One that would not apply patches to a flawed system, but create an alternative model that doesn’t ask for permissions. In the process we were joined by a group of friends who had both the social and the environnemental fight at heart. That’s how we solidified the idea of opening a worker-owned vegan café.”

Christina says the group are in the midst of renovations, and while those are nearly completed, their fundraiser is meant to cover remaining costs, namely for the licensing, plumbing, and other equipment.

“We’re in the middle of renovations, and the next steps are to apply for a license, have an architect look at the café, draw up the plans, and then just wait and hope,” Christina says. “We want to offer accessible, friendly space for people using our services.”

The fundraiser page for FRAKTAL’s vegan café can be found here.

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