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The Brewing Storm

In Denmark, a serious human rights violation: Not being able to drink freely on the job.

2:55 PM, Apr 13, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported on the brouhaha (pardon the pun) taking place at the Carlsberg brewing company:

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.

The horror! The way Christiansen sees it, "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." (As Ira Gershwin might say, Nice work if you can get it.) And as a result, close to a thousand workers have been going on strike during the past week.

As it turns out (thanks to the thorough research by the Journal's John W. Miller and David Kesmodel), Carlsberg is one of the last drink-on-the-job holdouts—mind you, even under the new regime, workers can still have a drink over lunch and drivers can have three bottles a day. But as Jim Koch of Sam Adams fame puts it, "You just can't drink and operate machinery."

At Koch's Boston Beer Company corporate offices, however, beer is still readily available. Corporate elitism!

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