AFL - the Union of General and Special Workers in East Iceland - is currently Iceland's third largest trade union, after Efling Trade Union and the VR Workers' Union of Reykjavík. Although located in the rather sparsely populated region of East Iceland, AFL has achieved its great size through extensive unification of the region's trade unions during recent years, together with a boom in regional economic activity.
It was on 28 April 2007 that AFL - the Union of General and Special Workers in East Iceland - was founded by merging three existing unions, namely the AFL already in existence at that time, Reyðarfjörður Labour Union (Verkalýðsfélag Reyðarfjarðar), and Vökull Trade Union (Vökull Stéttarfélag). Since the 2007 merger, AFL has worked a great deal towards building up its internal operations. Naturally, the merging of unions throughout such a large region into one Federation demanded considerable time in order to establish social connections and harmonise attitudes, but this was necessary so that Federation members could develop the feeling of belonging to a larger whole. Nonetheless, things have gone even better than expected, helped by useful experience of earlier mergers, since both Vökull Trade Union and AFL had themselves been created through similar mergers several years before, with Vökull forming as unions merged in the southern part of East Iceland and AFL forming as unions merged in the northern and central parts.
Covering a huge area in eastern Iceland, the Union's territory reaches from the municipality of Langanesbyggð in the north to the western end of Austur-Skaftafellssýsla county in the south, ending at the glacial sands west of Skaftafell. Numbering over 9,000, AFL members belong to four branches - unskilled workers, maritime workers, craftspeople, and shop and office workers.
In Iceland, AFL is affiliated to the following national organisations: the Federation of General and Special Workers (Starfsgreinasambandið), the Seaman's Federation (Sjómannasambandið), the Federation of Skilled Construction and Industrial Employees (Samiðn) and the Commercial Federation (Landssamband íslenskra verslunarmanna), in addition to the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (Alþýðusamband Íslands). AFL contributes directly to the activities of these organisations, as well as to those of other organisations and funds. For instance, AFL has executive committee members in the Federation of General and Special Workers, the Seaman's Federation and the Federation of Skilled Construction and Industrial Employees, in addition to having members on the executive committees of the vocational training fund LandsMennt, the Stapi Pension Fund (Stapi lífeyrissjóður), the United Pension Fund (Sameinaði lífeyrissjóðurinn), the regional adult education network Þekkingarnet Austurlands and the East Iceland Growth Agreement (Vaxtarsamningur Austurlands). Furthermore, AFL took the initiative in founding Starfsendurhæfing Austurlands, which is now beginning to provide its services in vocational rehabilitation.
AFL has also participated in international activities, for example in a Leonardo da Vinci project with the Swedish union IF Metall, and has played a part in establishing the ALCOA Workers Global Network, an informal association of trade unions with wage earners employed at ALCOA plants.
As part of its extensive services to members, AFL has offices in every village in East Iceland, and makes an effort through its website to ensure that members can access desired information and services as easily and accurately as possible.