Labor Unions in the Solar System

I failed Dungeon23 pretty early last year, unfortunately. I like the idea of a daily, low-stakes RPG writing ritual, but I ran into a creative block pretty early on. So this year, I’m trying Lore24, which gives me more leeway to follow my creativity wherever it leads, rather than forcing myself to just write dungeon rooms. I’m using the opportunity to add details to my sci-fi world.

I’m giving myself permission to allow a daily entry to be just a name and a brief, one-sentence description. But a few weeks back, I put in the work to detail the Solar System’s most prominent labor unions, and I wanted to share that here.

Mineworkers Industrial Union (MIU)

An old and once-powerful labor union, founded in 2219, with a heavy presence on Luna and in the Asteroid Belt. The MIU not only represents blue-collar industrial workers, but also skilled roboticists, engineers, cargo technicians, and various white-collar workers who support the heavily-automated mining industry.

The 2308 Lunar Rising devastated the Mineworkers, who were at the forefront of anti-Restitutionary resistance in the wake of Operation Hawkeye. The External Bureau of Intelligence arrested thousands of members and executed hundreds of organizers. Any informal arrangements that had existed between union and company were severed, and the remnants of the union’s leadership fled into exile.

Today, the MIU is the most heavily suppressed of all the Spacer labor unions. It’s recovered somewhat from its post-Rising nadir, but still doesn’t have the membership or bargaining position it once had. The MIU is affiliated with the All-System Alliance of Labor Unions. The current president is Gabriel Shala (they/them).

United Gas & Refinery Workers (UGRW)

A relatively small but rapidly-growing labor union, concentrated in the Outer Planets. Founded in 2282 from a collection of local refiners’ unions, the UGRW is organized in key industrial centers around Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The union is generally understood to be militant, strike-prone, radically left-wing, and hostile to spacer nomads who bear a reputation as dishonorable scabs. The UGRW is a founding affiliate of the Industrial Democratic Congress. The current president is Maysoun Sasaki (she/her).

Interplanetary Shipbuilders Association (ISA)

One of the oldest and largest labor unions in the Solar System, founded on Luna in 2207. Despite an early history of combative strike activity, the founding of the External Service and the system-wide repression of labor activity drove the ISA underground. Today, the Shipbuilders act as off-the-books negotiating partners, promising not to lead strikes or slowdowns in exchange for modest concessions. The Shipbuilders are generally seen as conciliatory toward the External Service. The ISA is affiliated with the All-System Alliance of Labor Unions. The current president is Pau Prem Khin (he/him).

Spacefarers and Teamsters Interplanetary Union (STIU)

Another of the largest labor unions in the Solar System, covering crews on all commercial passenger and cargo spacecraft. Due to their unique bargaining position out in space for potentially weeks at a time, STIU crews are noted for their frequent conflict with both corporate flight commanders and independent owner-operators. The STIU is also associated with organized crime, corruption, and religious heterodoxy. Corrupt locals are known for bribery, embezzlement, extortion, and violence in order to protect their interests and muscle out non-union crew. The STIU is affiliated with the All-System Alliance of Labor Unions. The current president is Rahman Chen Chieh (he/him).

Space Station Operations Union (SSOU)

Originally a firefighters’ union, now a broad umbrella of workers who maintain critical infrastructure aboard space stations. Founded in 2235 as the Interplanetary Union of Station Firefighters (IUSF), the union renamed itself in 2290 to recognize its increasingly diversified membership. The SSOU has been affiliated with the Industrial Democratic Congress since 2314, and is the IDCs largest union. The current president is Nahia-Maria Sante (she/her).

All-System Alliance of Labor Unions (ASALU)

The largest trade union confederation in the Solar System, founded in 2256 to present a united front to the newly-created External Service. While labor organizing has always been illegal under Restitutionary law, ASALU and its unions maintain an unofficial relationship with corporate authorities and the External Service. This relationship has been variously combative or conciliatory, depending on circumstance, but tends toward cooperation in exchange for limited, begrudging acceptance.

This détente suffered a grievous wound following the election of Cyril Brook as president of the Executive Council. From the left, ASALUs decision not to publicly oppose Operation Hawkeye incited a membership revolt, which in 2301 led several unions to split and form the Industrial Democratic Congress. From the right, the EBI led a system-wide repression of labor activity, and companies were pressured not to make the sort of informal deals that were once common.

ASALU eventually followed the IDC into a more militant stance against the External Service, but this did little to improve its fortunes. The Lunar Rising nearly destroyed the Mineworkers, and the ensuing crackdown implicated ASALU leaders in all sorts of anti-Restitutionary activity. ASALU reversed course again to try and repair its situation, but its bargaining position was severely weakened, and the unions were unable to extract the concessions they once could. In 2314, the SSOU ditched ASALU to affiliate with the IDC, instantly becoming the latter federations’ largest member union.

Today, ASALU is still the larger of the two big labor confederations in the Solar System, but its power has been severely weakened after decades of rudderless leadership and an inability to adapt to an increasingly polarized political situation. The leadership of ASALU is traditionally supportive of planetary restitution in abstract, but advocates for the accountability and democratization of the External Service.

Unions affiliated with ASALU include:

  • Mineworkers Industrial Union (MIU)
  • Interplanetary Shipbuilders Association (ISA)
  • Spacefarers and Teamsters Interplanetary Union (STIU)

Industrial Democratic Congress (IDC)

A trade union confederation founded in 2301 after the All-System Alliance of Labor Unions split in a dispute over Operation Hawkeye. The IDC is generally considered to be more militant than ASALU, and unlike ASALU officially endorses a program of Spacer independence and socialist reorganization of the interplanetary economy.

The IDC initially consisted of the UGRW and a handful of smaller unions, united by a willingness to directly challenge the External Service even if it risked losing the short-term gains of conciliation. This stance grew exponentially more popular as Operation Hawkeye wore on, so much so that even ASALU was pressured to adopt a more combative posture.

Capitalizing on this newfound labor radicalism, the IDC spent the postwar recession years pressing for strikes and protests throughout the Solar System. In particular, the IDC and allied unions actively recruited unemployed war veterans, taking advantage of their expertise to fight the External Service. The Lunar Rising further emboldened the militant unionists of the IDC, as did ASALUs decision to reverse course and renew its attempts at conciliation. With the admission of the SSOU, the IDC now represents a significant fraction of the Solar System’s unionized workers.

Unions affiliated with the IDC include:

  • United Gas & Refinery Workers (UGRW)
  • Space Station Operations Union (SSOU)
  • Agri-Food and Commercial Services Union (AFCSU)
  • Independent Electrical Workers (IEW)

February 4, 2024