Created By: deuxhero on April 18, 2011 Last Edited By: deuxhero on April 30, 2014

Evil Union

Unions acting like Mobsters.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public[...]"

A union that is evil. Engaging in intimidation and violence against non-union competitors or criminal acts in general. At minimum, they may be funding (or run by) the mob.

Not to be confused with unionized evil.

No Real Life examples of people or persons dead less than 10 years unless convicted (May be changed to none at all if needed)

Western Animation

Real Life
  • American Federation of Teachers head Albert Shanker is quoted as saying
When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.
  • The International Brotherhood of Teamsters had major dealings with gangs during the 1950s. Most famously, the members' pension fund was embezzled to fund The Mafia.
Community Feedback Replies: 60
  • April 18, 2011
    cathstuart
    On The Waterfront (Marlon Brando, Eve Marie Saint). Brando's character is doomed to lose against the corrupt, Mafia-run unions that run the waterfront, and end up as a bum, which, frankly he is, let's face it.
  • April 19, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Allen Drury's The Throne of Saturn. The leader of a union of space industry workers is a communist agent who tries to use his position to sabotage America's space efforts, including the Mars mission in the novel. The union members are apparently willing to go along with him in impeding the U.S. space effort by striking.
  • April 19, 2011
    jaytee
    There's already Thieves Guild and Weird Trade Union.

    Or is this supposed to more Corrupt Union than Evil Union? Even then, it's a subtle distinction.
  • April 19, 2011
    deuxhero
    Corrupt would imply these were initially intended to be good, which many examples aren't, having started as a mob front ect..
  • April 19, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    That Teachers Union guy isn't being evil, or corrupt or anything like that. He is quite correctly doing his job, to represent teachers and make sure they get the best working conditions. It is the Secretary of education's job to represent the interests of the children.
  • April 19, 2011
    jaytee
    I'm thinking Evil Union in general is probably covered by Thieves Guild and Weird Trade Union.

    There is probably room for a specific Mob Run Trade Union trope though. There's enough Truth In Television and specific examples from fiction that it could be its own trope easy.
  • April 19, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    I'm with Cryptic Mirror on that point. It's not the most tactful thing for Mr Shanker to say, but union leaders do basically work for their members' interests. A possible example for you:-
    • Tony Boyle (1904-1985), president of the American United Mine Workers' Union, was convicted in 1974 of murdering a rival for the union leadership. A number of other union officials were involved in this conspiracy. Boyle's leadership of the union was marked by allegations of embezzlement of union funds and corruption, although the UMW wasn't mobbed-up in quite the same way the Teamsters' were.
    • If you're going to mention the Teamsters' Union, it's also worth mentioning that its leader at the height of its period of Mafia involvement was Jimmy Hoffa, who is the main character in the film of his life, Hoffa. Also, the Teamsters' pension fund's role in financing Mob casinos is part of the Scorsese film Casino via the character of corrupt union official Andy Stone. Stone winds up dead at the hands of the gangsters, as is presumed to have happened to Hoffa.
  • April 19, 2011
    captainbrass2
    Another example of unions controlled/influenced by the American Mafia were some of those at what is now JFK Airport in the 1960s. This is mentioned in Nick Pileggi's biography of Henry Hill as part of the background to Henry and his friends' ability to rob the airport and get away with it, although not specifically in the film, Goodfellas.
  • April 19, 2011
    SKJAM
    Communist-controlled unions are the big threat in most works prior to oh, 1960 or so and only tapering off after that, reflecting real-life fears about the evil Reds using unionization to turn the West into a worker's paradise. But with the leftist union people being so feared, that left the job of organizing labor open for the mob.
  • April 20, 2011
    deuxhero
    Needs more fictional examples.
  • April 21, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    There was a Mob controlled Union in Quincy at least once.
  • April 21, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    The musicians' guild in Discworld isn't very concerned with music as such. However, try playing music for money in Ankh-Morpork without paying union dues, and you might end with your instrument somewhere uncomfortable.
  • April 21, 2011
    Fanra
    The musicians' guild in Discworld isn't very concerned with music as such. However, try playing music for money inAnkh Morpork without paying union dues, and you m ight end with your instrument somewhere uncomfortable.

    All guilds in Ankh-Morpork are this way. In The Truth it was the Scribes Guild.
  • April 22, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    All the Discworld Guilds except the Assassins Guild, which gives an unrivalled education and many families send their children (formerly just sons, but it has recently became co-ed) just for the classical education. It's a pretty respectable and enlightened guild. The Thieves Guild also has a wonderful educational programme and plays an important part in crime control and law enforcement. It is the Pratchett idiom that the guilds that look evil are really quite benevolent, but the ones which are benign are scheming nests of vipers.
  • April 22, 2011
    FastEddie
    Yeah, this would not have a Real Life section. Can't get through YKTTW without starting natter. I think the better idea here would be Unionized Evil. Making it clear what the Evil is. That is, the membership, not the fact of them being in a union.
  • April 22, 2011
    jaytee
    I think this needs a name change. The clear theme popping up is greedy, corrupt union officials or mafia-run unions and their thugs. To me Evil Union seems more like a Weird Trade Union, like a guild for supervillains or something.

    Something along the lines of Unethical Union or Mafia Trade Union gets the idea across much better. This a trope with its basis in Truth In Television and even the fictional examples are going to reflect that. We don't need the Real Life examples, just a paragraph in the description about the Real Life precedent for such portrayals.
  • April 22, 2011
    BlackDragon
    During an early Schlock Mercenary arc, Breya Andreyasn runs a small shipyard on Mars - its labor-requirements, however, turned out to be rather smaller than the union had hoped for, so they tried to use intimidation and sabotage to force her into hiring some of their people. Fortunately - well, UNFORTUNATELY, for THEM - Schlock the Heroic Sociopath was hanging around at the time. And he was hungry.
  • April 22, 2011
    Fanra
    All the Discworld Guilds except the Assassins Guild, which gives an unrivalled education and many families send their children (formerly just sons, but it has recently became co-ed) just for the classical education. It's a pretty respectable and enlightened guild. The Thieves Guild also has a wonderful educational programme and plays an important part in crime control and law enforcement. It is the Pratchett idiom that the guilds that look evil are really quite benevolent, but the ones which are benign are scheming nests of vipers.

    Yes, there is some of this. However, the Assassins Guild is still the Assassins Guild. They are evil. They kill people for money. They took a contract to kill the Hogfather (who is Discworld's Santa Claus).
  • April 22, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Billy Bathgate gangster Dutch Schultz owns the restaurant workers union.
  • April 22, 2011
    Damr1990
    I'm thinking it souds like {{The Syndicate }} to me
  • May 13, 2011
    deuxhero
    bump.
  • May 13, 2011
    X2X
  • May 14, 2011
    Deboss
    You can update the OP you know.
  • May 14, 2011
    MrMous
    The mafia in Eraser use the local port's union as a front.

    Tony Two Toes: [counting the union rep payee envelopes] Hey, Mikey. You're one payment short.
    Mikey: Oh, that's Louis. He didn't pay.
    Tony Two Toes: He didn't pay? Why?
    Mikey: He needed a few extra days to come up with the money, so I told him it was okay.
    Tony Two Toes: You going soft on me, Mikey? What exactly did he say?
    Johnny C: He said, "Tell that fat fuck, Tony Two Toes, I ain't payin' another dime!"
    Tony Two Toes: I know that voice... but it can't be him, unless he's a ghost.
    Johnny C: [walks into room] Boo.

    Also see here, starting at 6:48.
  • May 14, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    In Batman The Movie, Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman founded the United Underworld. This might even make a nice trope image.
  • May 14, 2011
    deuxhero
    ^ Like it says, not to be confused with unionized evil.
  • May 15, 2011
    Korodzik
    The evil unionists from the Flash game Card Check.
    In the game, the player is a tattoo artist who faces several attempts by union organizers to get you to sign the card, including visiting you at home, vandalizing your car, threatening your cat, and even offering you marijuana.
  • May 15, 2011
    FastEddie
    Altered the title, as it was already messing people up.
  • May 16, 2011
    deuxhero
    And the new title has same exact problem (indeed, "unionized evil" is flat out worse than "evil union" as it only implies Weird Trade Union and does not suggest the trope, at least "Evil Union" can not just mean a "union of evil" but, correctly, "Union that is evil", "unionized evil" doesn't do the 2nd) and people can't find it by title anymore.

    As for name, how about Conspiracy Against The Public? It can't be confused with unionized evil, though the meaning is lost on anyone who doesn't know the Adam Smith quote.
  • May 17, 2011
    JonnyB
    If I recall, the Union guys in Eraser operated like this. It came in handy when they had to fight the real bad guys.

    Edit: Nevermind, I didn't notice it had already been covered.
  • May 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    How about the nice-n-SPOONy Mobbed Up Union?
  • May 17, 2011
    deuxhero
    Well, it does imply the trope on its face without knowing a quote.
  • May 17, 2011
    jaytee
    I like Mobbed Up Union alright.
  • May 20, 2011
    FastEddie
  • May 20, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    The problem is less the title than the concept. There are two:

    • Unions are heavily involved with The Mafia - this is an American only trope AFAIK.
    • Unions, being made of working class people, are temperamentally thuggish and evil. Adam Smith says so.

    Very distinct ideas.

    A complex example is Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront. His response to being criticised for naming names before the House Un-American Committee was to make a film about how heroic it is to inform the police about mobs in unions

  • May 20, 2011
    johnnye
    Yeah, I think this covers two tropes, as described above, and is easily confused with several others.

    We have:

    This trope seems to be:
    • Unions Are Evil: A legitimate, or originally so, trade union engages in criminal activity on the side, cf: the Teamsters.
  • May 20, 2011
    Damr1990
    how is this differtent from The Syndicate ?
  • May 20, 2011
    ssfsx17
    Bonus points if the union members have New Joisey accents
  • May 20, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^Um, it isn't a crime syndicate.

    Certainly related, in that they are both run by mobsters, but this is no more The Syndicate than Legitimate Businessmens Social Club is The Syndicate.
  • May 20, 2011
    JonnyB
    This isn't the same as The Syndicate, but the two are related. This would probably be a subset of The Syndicate, as the mob often runs the unions. But's that's not the same as saying the mob is the unions.

    It's also worth noting that on The Syndicate page, it mentions: in Spanish "Sindicato" means both "Syndicate" and "Trade Union" (the same goes for the French "syndicat"). Seems like the author of that page already anticipated this one.
  • May 20, 2011
    captainbrass2
    Sorry to create yet further problems, but I'm not sure the Adam Smith page quote primarily relates to unions, although he would have opposed them. I always thought it was a Take That against anti-competitive behaviour by businessmen; price-fixing, cartels and so on.
  • May 20, 2011
    deuxhero
    I know and it is (see the rest of that passage), but it works for the page doesn't it?
  • April 29, 2014
    backpack
    One storyline in Sandman Mystery Theatre shows the mafia hiring a Mad Scientist to attack the owner of a freight ship who couldn't afford to pay union wages to unload his ship.
  • April 29, 2014
    DAN004
    So what is this, exactly?
  • April 29, 2014
    partner555
    ^ Looking at just the description, it's Exactly What It Says On The Tin. A union full of evil folks.
  • April 29, 2014
    zarpaulus
  • April 29, 2014
    Bisected8
  • April 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ now what exactly counts for an "union"? I thought it is synonymous with "organization"...
  • April 29, 2014
    bitemytail
  • April 29, 2014
    Bisected8
    A union (in this context) means a Trade Union. Basically a group of individuals in a particular profession (usually; Student Unions are a thing, too) who've banded together to stand up against their employers (and rival unions). EDIT: Ninja'd

  • April 29, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Strips
    • In the libertarian/conservative comic strip Prickly City, the Teacher's Union is represented by a black thug. Prickly City is not exactly known for its subtlety.
  • April 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ so then, Evil Union is an union of "evil" professions (thugs, mafiosi, serial killers etc)?
  • April 29, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Not that the job is evil, but rather that the people that are in the union are.

    Example: Alice is a member of the engineer's union. They want higher wages and better benefits. Alice finds out the union leaders want to frame the CEO of a corporation so they can black-mail him into meeting demands.

    Not Example: Alice is a member of the Mafia union. They want more accurate guns with larger caliber bullets. Alice finds out the union leaders want to send toys to starving children in Africa until the mafia meets their demands.

    Does that make sense?
  • April 29, 2014
    Bisected8
    ^^ Nope "Evil" is an adjective, so it's immediately recognisable as a description of the union, instead of what it's meant to be a trade union for. If that makes sense.
  • April 29, 2014
    zarpaulus
  • April 29, 2014
    jatay3
    A guild is slightly different from a union by the way.
  • April 29, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Yeah, guilds were the precursors to both unions and corporations.
  • April 30, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Given that Tropes Are Flexible though, examples using a guild still could qualify.
  • April 30, 2014
    jatay3
    If I remember rightly the Teamsters were infiltrated for a time by The Mafia by manipulating poorly written electoral laws. In that case, it was not so much an evil union as a union being suborned. According to legend Jimmey Hoffa, remarked about the Commitee for Ethical Practices, "Have they found any ethical practices yet."

  • April 30, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley Of Fear the Scowerers are a coal miners union cum secret society which used terror and murder to control its members and enemies. Based on the real life Molly McGuires.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=odniqsbey3tki0vnrxk01hym