Shrek: That's okay buddy. We're from the union.All aspects of TV production are unionized. Thus, TV writers and directors are more familiar with the goings-on of union negotiations and politics than the average person. As a reference to the ubiquitous nature of unions in their lives, they will invent unions for unlikely occupations as throwaway gags or plot points. Evil Minions Local 204, Mad Scientists Allied Labor Brotherhood, Dray Animals Teamsters, United Robot Workers 404, Astronaut Solidarity, International Workers of The World's Oldest Profession Local 69, etc. At any moment, the action could be interrupted by a labor strike, mandated coffee break, or possible violation of some obscure union regulation. This is not nearly as much Truth in Television as one might think, particularly in the United States but also internationally. As seen on the other wiki, Sweden is one of the relatively few countries with a majority union workforce; Great Britain did have one before the Margaret Thatcher years, and Canada has a workforce more than a quarter unionized. At the apex of the movement in the 1950's, nearly a third of America's workers were unionized, but nowadays that number has dwindled to less than an eighth (and is dropping quickly), relegated mostly to the few remaining states with pro-union laws on the books (California and New York happen to be among them), legacy automobile plants, and the public sector (this one may change very soon). The concept of a super-villain union is a humorous one on several levels. One, villainy is by nature a solitary and selfish activity. Two, villains don't care about rules. And three, * This entry has been stricken under Wiki Contributor Local 303 Bylaws, Section 440 Sub 13 Para 2.* The shop steward will permit entries below, subject to the provision that management does not impose a lockout. A Thieves' Guild and Murder, Inc. are a specific type of weird trade union, though they usually are a bigger piece of the story than most of the examples here. A Band of Brothels is one for ladies of... negotiable affection. A Magical Society may be one, although those don't necessarily exist for the benefit of their members. See also Signed Up for the Dental. In any case, the very notion of a union for people who are engaged in illegal activities is frequently played for (at least mild) laughs.
Elf: The union?
Shrek: We represent the workers in all magical industries, both evil and benign.
Elf: Oh, oh right.
Shrek: Are you feeling at all degraded or oppressed?
Elf: [turns off microphone] Uh, a little... We don't even have dental.
Elf: The union?
Shrek: We represent the workers in all magical industries, both evil and benign.
Elf: Oh, oh right.
Shrek: Are you feeling at all degraded or oppressed?
Elf: [turns off microphone] Uh, a little... We don't even have dental.
— Shrek 2
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Anime & Manga
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, the crazily optimistic Kafuka insists that the hikikomori student, Kiri, is a Zashiki-warashi and that Kiri belongs to the "National Zashki-warashi Union". Kiri lives in a classroom at the school and in one instance, there's an announcement on the chalkboard in the room about a meeting of this "union".
- The fairy labourers of Luna Nova school form a union in episode 14 of Little Witch Academia and go on strike to gain a greater share of the energy output of the Sorcerers Stone, they install magic reflecting boards around it stopping all magic on campis. Main character Akko tries to berate them out of it... and winds up not only switching to their side, but ends up becoming their General Secretary. When Diana Cavendish tries to do the same thing Akko was aiming to do Akko calls her a member of the bourgeoisie.
- In The Badger comics there was a union for Hispanic Sorcerers called IBOB (the International Brotherhood Of Brujos).
- The League of Ramona's Evil Ex-Boyfriends in Scott Pilgrim. Despite the name, the league has no discrimination against gender - all evil exes are accepted. The only one who really gets any benefits from the League, though, is Gideon.
- Marvel Comics has one of the best: the Serpent Society, made up of almost all of Marvel's snake-themed villains. In return for a cut of all their loot, they get benefits which include "guaranteed pay-scale, insurance, medical plans, pensions, greater access to tools and data and no fear of long-term imprisonment".note (The last one was due to the fact that Sidewinder could use teleportation to rescue any member who was arrested; when King Cobra took over, he couldn't make similar promises, possibly one of many reasons for the infighting that broke them up.)
- Defied by force in Birds of Prey #74, when Oracle sends Black Canary and Huntress to break up an effort by Gotham's various mooks to form a henchperson's union. As the Canary asks, "Can you imagine asking the Joker for full medical and weekends off?"
- Gotham's mooks bring the topic up again in Batman: Arkham Knight after Riddler lays off a number of his henchmen and replaces them with robots.
- The Secret Society of Super Villains is basically a supervillain trade union, especially in its incarnation as "The Society".
- In the Belgian comic Suske en Wiske, at one point a dragon which is a servant of the Devil himself refuses to attack the heroes, claiming he is going on strike for better working conditions. He has to do it anyway, after being told he cannot go on strike without "joining the union" (of the Servants of Darkness, one assumes).
- The Disreputable Urban Magicians and Sorcerers Union, from Stanley and His Monster, for people who are likely to be mistaken for John Constantine.
- Tintin in America has a meeting of "The League of Distressed Gangsters".
- One 2000 AD Future Shock had the Green Pedestrian Palm (a Captain Ersatz of the Green Cross Man, a superhero who starred in a number of PSAs in the U.K., played by David Prowse aka the guy in the Darth Vader suit) quit his role as a safety spokesman in order to fight crime. Turns out that superheroes and supervillains are all in the same union and stage their battles to ensure that they always have work. The villain he defeats is pissy over having to work with "scabs".
- Parodied in the comic La Máquina del Cambiazo de Mortadelo y Filemón, where Mortadelo is exchanged by said machine with Dracula. When the latter appears and intimidates the other characters, Filemón just gives him a powerful smack and throws him into the machine. His last words before being sent away are ¡Me quejaré al Sindicato de Vampiros! (I'll report this to the Vampires' Union!)
- One issue of Usagi Yojimbo had a "Union of Beggars" who emptied their treasury to hire an assassin after one of their number was killed by a crooked samurai.
- Barnaby. Mr. O'Malley is a card-carrying member of the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society. See Characters @ Crockett Johnson Home Page
- The werewolf parody which opens Gary Larson's book The Curse of Madam C features a member of a Doomsayer's Union warning Larson's Author Avatar about "Madame C".
- Bloom County had Santa's elves organized into the "Professional Elves Toy-making and Craft Organization", and later there was a Comic Strip Characters' Union. If you're wondering about the interesting acronym (PETCO), then-President Ronald Reagan had recently fired every member of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization (PATCO) for going on strike.
- The Animated Actors in Dykes to Watch Out For are said in an early strip to form Local 428 of the Federated Sisterhood of Lesbian Comic Strip Characters.
- An arc in a strip which ran in the U.S. military's newspaper, Stars and Stripes, in the early 1980s, involved a modern-day Confederate officer who at one point showed his membership card for the Association of Bona-Fide Southern Cartoon Characters. "Y'all will pleeze notice that's signed by Foghorn Leghorn hisse'f!" To which an audience member exclaims, "Wow! Co-signed by Deputy Dawg!"
Films — Live-Action
- Vic Spanner was a lazy worker at a toilet factory in Carry On at Your Convenience, who was (supposedly) the head of the factory trade union and organised worker strikes whenever he didn't want to work.
- See also the extended, Kafka-esque union/guild sequence in the film The Wizard of Speed and Time.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the Catch Phrase Spouting Duo present their union cards to gain the trust of and help from an LA dealer. (Jay and Silent Bob are members of Jersey local 404; the LA dealers are Los Angeles local 305.) The two groups even spend time talking business (the Jersey union might have to strike in September because they don't have medical yet).
- In The Gay Divorcee, there is apparently a gigolos' union.
- In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy is greeted by representatives of the Lollipop Guild and the Lullaby League.
- The Three Stooges are proud members of the Amalgamated Association of Morons local 6 7/8.
- In Grosse Pointe Blank, Dan Aykroyd's character is trying to start up a union for assassins.
- Fritz Lang's M features a guild of beggars, although this is historically accurate.
- Santa's elves in The Hebrew Hammer are apparently unionized. When his evil son, Damian, takes over, he lays them all off, and replaces them with children from South East Asia.
- The Hallelujah Trail has the Irish Teamsters Union. While the Teamsters is a real union (and the name derives from when they had to manage teams of horses) their long list of labor demands pushes them well into parody territory.
- The second Crank movie features a strike by the Porn Stars Union. According to Word of God Ron Jeremy showed up on the set without invitation and took it upon himself to direct them.
- In The Wildcats of St. Trinian's the girls of the eponymous school decide to go on strike after they decide they've been given too much schoolwork to do, ultimately forming (via devious means) a national union of schoolgirls and holding the government to account, despite the establishment's attempt to stop them by equally devious means.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld books include "Guilds" for almost all possible jobs, including Thieves, Assassins, Plumbers, Fools, Exotic Dancers, "Seamstresses" (hem hem), and even Beggars and Dogs. Several of them came about because The Colour of Magic was a parody of various other authors' worlds that included guilds for those with no logical reason to form guilds (like thieves and assassins).
- The Guild of Seamstress ("They call themselves seamstresses... hem, hem!") gets a fair amount of both serious and comedic attention, starting with their leader being called Rose Palm and her female underlings being referred to as "daughters". The fact that the "Seamstresses" Guild does not include actual seamstresses is dealt with surprisingly seriously in Feet of Clay, where miserable (and technically legal) sweatshops are depicted. The Guild also keeps a few genuine seamstresses, as in women who can darn socks and mend holes in clothes, on hand for when people inevitably get them mixed up (and so that men can get their socks darned while they "get their socks darned"). Some of those ladies earn more than the regular guild members because the misunderstanding is so widespread.
- The Truth mentions Ankh-Morpork's Guild of Conjurers, which trains stage magicians in a world where magic definitely and obviously exists, for largely the same reason that scientists and engineers can build nuclear bombs, but it's special-effects artists and stunt-people who get employment in the entertainment industry when filming explosions. (And the fakes are often more interesting to watch, anyway.)
- The same volume also mentions a Guild of Engravers, who are less than enthusiastic about the mechanical typesetting technology that William De Worde's dwarven acquaintances are introducing to the city, and are set up as the primary antagonists... Until a seemingly rather eventful Emergency General Meeting ends with the election of several new officers and a name change to the Guild of Engravers and Printers, and the real Big Bad of the novel turns out to be someone else entirely.
- The Thieves Guild operates interestingly and has played a background but persistent role in several books. It's a bit like an insurance agency crossed with a protection racket. You pay a fee to the Guild a few times a year and they're bound by contract not to mug/rob/steal from you. The more you pay, the better the contract. Simple ones include muggings that leave you with a few bruises, and high-tier ones see a thief politely tip his hat, flash his license, accept a coin, and walk away. The Guild offsets these structured crimes by coming down very, very hard on criminals who operate without a license — much harder than the legal authorities (unlicensed thieves pray to be caught by the Watch before the Guild). Net result: when the Thieves Guild goes on strike, the crime rate goes up. After this happened, the Watch fell into disuse for a while, because the Guilds just had to work less to reduce crime a lot, while the Watch would have to work themselves ragged. There was a genuine protection racket at one point, in the Guild of Firefighters, which was immediately disbanded. They have now been largely superseded by the city's fireproof Golem population, which are compelled by the words in their head to prevent the spread of fires.
- The Assassin's Guild, while having a number of characters be the member of and/or alumni (Vetinari himself was one) veers into The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything territory, much like Wizards who never actually use magic. They're more noted for the cases in which they won't take an assassination. Supposedly the bell signifying an "inhumation" rings daily, but only nameless background characters are involved.
- The Beggars' Guild operates in a somewhat similar way. Residents of particular area or people holding a specific event, such as a wedding, can pay the Guild the fee that ensures that no beggars will show up in the vicinity. Apparently, should someone forget to pay the fee, a surprisingly large number of beggars turn up at whatever event they are holding... A running joke about the Beggars' Guild is the hardship their leaders suffer, because while the ordinary rank and file can live off the pennies they receive for a cup of tea, it's beneath the dignity of a Beggars' Guild leader to ask for anything less than the price of a ten-course banquet or a warm mansion for the night. Foul Ole Ron and the Canting Crew, the most commonly seen beggars in the series, are not guild members (because everyone needs someone they can look down on). They actually go into the guild to beg on occasion, with surprising success.
- There is also the Guild of Musicians. Anyone who wants to write or perform music must be a member, and of course, the Guild decides what types of music are proper. In Soul Music, Bud E. Holly and friends introduce a type of Rock and Roll, but can't afford to be guild members. So, naturally, the Guild wants to put a stop to the performers.
- In Going Postal, we find that postmen have their own Secret Brotherhood, which doesn't have any influence outside of the Post Office, but any postman must join. And, of course, to become higher in rank, like the Postmaster, the initiation is a bit more arduous.
- And, of course, the system reaches its logical conclusion in the form of the Guild of C.M.O.T. Dibblers, a fully licensed and legal guild intended to extend some ill-defined legality to the operations of the eponymous founder and, as far has been revealed, only member. The loophole that allowed that one was filled in really quickly afterwards. (It's not certain if the guild somehow gave rise to Dibbler's many dibblegangers in other cities across the Disc.)
- Another one-man Guild, the Guild of Victims, consists of one guy who serves as a stand-in for people who pay the Thieves' Guild to mug them at a specified time and place each year, thereby getting all their year's share of crimes taken care of when it's convenient — so, yes, he's paid to get beaten up and robbed. The Guild of Thieves are worried that this makes the whole thing look ridiculous.
- Urban Legend in-universe claims that there's a Rat Guild, although this is probably not true (because all the rats smart enough to found one have moved to Bad Blintz).
- There is even a Dog Guild — or rather, there was one — which made a surprising amount of sense, as dogs have complex social hierarchies, mark territories, work in packs, etc. It wasn't recognized outside its own membership (only a few dozen dogs were actually members) and was really more of a personality cult.
- Craig Shaw Gardner's Ebenezum Trilogy has the Association for the Advancement of Mythical and Imaginary Beasts and Creatures (AFTAOMAIBAC. Well, they think it's a catchy acronym), which seeks equal tapestry representation for all mythical beasts (including the lesser-known ones such as the Bog Wombler.)
- Book #26 of the Animorphs plays with this in that the entire society of the Iskoort race revolves around Weird Trade Unions. There is the Servant Guild; the Warmaker Guild; the Criminal Guild (if there were no criminals, what use would law enforcement be?); the Worker Guild; the Superstition and magic Guild; The News, Gossip, and Speculation Guild; and the Shopper Guild ("The economy cannot function without people to buy things",which several real life economists have been saying for years).
- The Wheel of Time:
- The Illuminators are responsible for all of the fireworks in the setting, are very secretive, and retaliate harshly against non-Illuminators messing around with fireworks. Mat finds this secrecy very enticing, and tries to experiment with them on his own. He and an ex-Illuminator are, ultimately, responsible for the invention of cannons.
- The city of Ebou Dar has a guild for everything. At one point, a character is advised not to give money to a beggar because he doesn't have a guild ring. That advice saved his life, as the unregistered beggar was actually an assassin.
- Alan Gordon's Fools Guild mystery novels feature the Fools Guild, which is more of a Secret Society than a trade union. The Fools Guild ostensibly provides jesters to kings, dukes and other royalty during the time of the Crusades, but those jesters are also protectors and detectives, charged to investigate crimes, protect innocent people and influence local politics for the better. Their membership includes all of the jesters and fools that have appeared in William Shakespeare's plays (Feste, the fool from The Twelfth Night is the central character in these books).
- The Making of a Mage by Ed Greenwood shows the creation of a prototype thieves' guild — a "gang" incorporating several existing groups and individuals. The reason behind it was that the environment was hard for independent thieves... and, ironically, too oppressive for normal guilds ("The master tailors had no guild because the magelords did not hold with guilds.").
- Atlas Shrugged involves business owners and entrepreneurs going on strike when laws become too restrictive for them, causing society to collapse. The owners simply walk away from their businesses. Skilled workers, some for similar motives and some in sympathy with their former bosses, refuse to accept promotions or greater responsibility
- In Hex and the City, some giant animated teddy bears working for an auction house complain about their working conditions and the need to get unionized. Whether they're proposing an Auction-House Workers' Union or a Giant Animated Teddy Bears' Union isn't specified.
- In Kraken, the familiars that serve practitioners of magic are organized into a union by Wati, a socialist statue-spirit who escaped from the ancient Egyptian afterlife. The familiars go on strike for better benefits, which leads to small animals picketing in the streets of London.
- The Doctrine Of Labyrinths plays with this trope. There are guilds for really weird things — like fishing corpses out of the river and digging up cadavers — but people in more mundane shady businesses, such as burglary and assassination, don't have guilds. Lampshaded in The Mirador, as respectable people assume such guilds exist, and Mildmay has to explain that, no, they don't.
- The titular association in The Club of Queer Trades is made up of men who have created their unusual occupations.
- One of several plotlines in For the Win involves attempting to form a union for professional gamers and gold farmers. Significant portions of the book elaborate on the economics and horrid working conditions that make this union necessary.
- The Bondsmagi of Karthain from the Gentleman Bastard are a rather dark take on the traditional fantasy Mage's Guild. Basically, if you're a practicing mage, you either join the guild, or you die (very painfully). The Bondsmagi are all extremely powerful and command hugely exorbitant prices for their services and magic; even the richest king couldn't afford to keep a Bondsmagi on retainer for very long. However, if you do have the money to hire one, they will fulfill the terms of their contract, no matter what that contract entails. The other thing that makes them so nasty is that if a single Bondsmagi is killed (or badly injured in any other way), the entire rest of the Guild immediately drops what they're doing and comes after the person who hurt one of their own.
- David Gerrold's Star Wolf novel series mentions that the enlisted crewmembers aboard the ship are unionized, something generally unheard of in any military force.
- In The Pride of Parahumans the allegedly anarchist Vesta is run by monopolistic Guilds. In particular the Protectors who have in essence carved out petty fiefdoms in the various habitats.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen:
- The Kingdom of Letheras has the peculiarly named Rat Catcher's Guild which purposes to do just that, catch rats and other vermin. In truth, they act as the unofficial assassins guild, the guild of thieves note , a refugee smuggling ring and are conveniently contracted by the crown to investigate disappearances.
- The Darujhistan-based Trygalle Trade Guild, with offices on several continents, is a collection of would-be adventurers that sign on as shareholders and put their lives on the line to deliver whatever the client wants delivered, which usually involves crossing other dimensions full of things that want to eat and/or skin you alive.
- Villains by Necessity: Assassins and thieves organized themselves into guilds in most cities. Sam (assassin) and Arcie (thief) had both been members of their respective guilds, with the latter a guildmaster.
- Star Wars Legends gives us a couple;
- The Smugglers' Alliance, a loose coalition of the kind of people Han and Chewie used to be before joining the Rebellion. It's stated that part of the purpose of the group is to present a united front against factions like the Hutts and Black Sun, i.e. the "bosses" of the galactic underworld. They have a rocky but often mutually beneficial relationship with the Rebel Alliance and its successor state, the New Republic, whose more hands-off approach to economics (compared to the totalitarian Empire) allows many of them to earn a living legally after years of breaking Imperial laws. They, in turn, often help the Rebellion/Republic in its conflicts with the Empire.
- The prequels also occasionally reference "unionized insectoids" among the factions that supported the Separatists, especially those that work in arms production. Although these groups seem to be defined more by their species' traits than by any economic arrangements.
- In Robert McCloskey's Homer Price Dulcey Dooner claims to be Secretary-Treasurer of the Sign Putter Uppers Union. It's pretty obvious from context that he invented it on the spot to get paid more for putting up street signs.
- Get Smart: In the episode "Strike While the Agent is Hot" Max takes over the "Spies' Guild" negotiations with the Chief, and is irked when he discovers that KAOS agents get better fringe benefits than CONTROL agents. CONTROL paid better salaries, though.
- An episode of CSI: New York featured a man forming an union for costumed mascots.
- And on an episode of Las Vegas, strippers demand better working conditions and health care benefits, virtually shutting down the city's adult entertainment industry. One group of men out for a Bachelor's Party couldn't had to resort to hiring scab strippers to give them lap dances. And reminded us that the words "scab" and "stripper" should never appear in the same sentence.
- The Alliance of Magicians that Gob is blacklisted from (despite actually being its founder) in Arrested Development. Not a declared Union, but fits the trope well all the same. "We demand to be taken seriously." Inspired by the Real Life Magic Circle, who have a similar goal of preventing the exposure of "magical" secrets.
- The Wire:
- In something of a play on this, Stringer Bell tries to get drug syndicate meetings to run according to Robert's Rules of Order (as in your classic chair meeting, with members "taking the floor", making "Points of Order" etc). Hilarity Ensues.
Stromger: You ain't got the floor. Chair don't recognise yo' ass.
- After a co-op meeting, Stringer catches Shamrock writing down the minutes of the meeting:
Stringer: Nigga, is you takin' notes on a criminal fuckin' conspiracy?
- In something of a play on this, Stringer Bell tries to get drug syndicate meetings to run according to Robert's Rules of Order (as in your classic chair meeting, with members "taking the floor", making "Points of Order" etc). Hilarity Ensues.
- Harry Hill had a running gag about Ben Kingsley of the Clown Union interrupting the fun.
- Series 2 of Knightmare featured Bumptious the Dwarf, whose response to everything was to try and swear the dungeoneers into his guild of miners. One episode even included an inquiry into a workplace accident. Bumptious' Northern accent was a clear reference to the former strength of the National Union of Miners in the North of England.
- One episode of Michael Moore's The Awful Truth featured a sketch where a gang of men hired to beat up workers attempting to organise a union decide they want better treatment but when one of them says "we need a union!" the others beat him up.
- Babylon 5:
- Combined with Black Comedy when Centauri Emperor Cartagia, his hands deep red with blood (but otherwise in an impeccable white uniform) starts talking about his attempts to make G'Kar scream, but takes a tangent into rolling his eyes about unions:
- The Centauri seem to like this trope. They also have a Telepath's Guild, in contrast to the human Psi Corps (which is a Mutant Draft Board).
- One episode of Pushing Daisies has a group of clowns at a circus who try to unionize.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- There's a brief arc where Pearl attempts to join the League of Mad Scientists.
- Former Mads Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank were once audited by the same union (Frank claimed it was an "are you really evil?" debacle), forcing them to hire a temp to put some old inventions in storage. That temp would play a bigger role on the show than anyone could have imagined.
- Even back in season "zero", Dr. Forrester and Dr. Erhardt were having trouble with the League.
- Another episode had Tom Servo starting his own multi-national billon-dollar corporation that made whittling sticks out of rainforest trees. His workers starting chanting "UNION! UNION!", which prompted Tom to spray them with the hose.
- Another time, the nanites that lived onboard the SOL at that point wouldn't complete repairs for a week after they went on strike; only until nanite strike breakers came in did the repairs proceed. It's implied the strikers eventually won, since in later appearances they were treated as stereotypical union workers who "don't go to the john without a work order".
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch in which the paintings in the National Gallery all go on strike.
- One episode of Sanford and Son had Lamont and Sanford going to Hawaii to attend a "Junk Men of America" convention.
- Discussed in Justified. A small-time punk ordered to spy on a U.S. Marhsal attempts to assassinate him, only to be wounded himself. When his boss hires a hitman to do the job right, the punk is astounded by the fact that the hitman used to spy like him, wondering if he can be a hitman one day. The hitman dismisses this, telling the punk that there's no "assassin's guild".
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rom organizes the employees of Quark's Bar in direct violation of Ferengi law. Interestingly in this case, Quark's mistreatment of his employees is noticeably less harsh than that which is expected from a Ferengi boss. The Ferengi government intervenes in the dispute at one point, and is ready to use drastic measures to dismantle the union—suggesting that the government often acts as a sort of trade union for Ferengi entrepreneurs.
- In the pilot episode of Red Dwarf, Lister notes that the service droids have a better union than himself and Rimmer.
- In the Battlestar Galactica Reimagined episode "Dirty Hands," Tyrol organizes a strike of the lower-deck crewmembers to protest the potential rise of a birthplace-based caste system within the fleet.
- The Companions' Guild in Firefly. For the uninitiated, "Companion" in this case refers to a particularly high-class call girl. The Guild provides healthcare for its members and maintains a list of approved clients.
- In Season 4 of Gotham, Penguin effectively unionizes all crime in Gotham by making it mandatory for all would-be criminals in the city to get a license from him, pay him a percentage of their profits, and avoid killing people. Those who don't follow these rules get punished by Penguin's Mooks. As this causes a massive downturn in violent crime, City Hall and the GCPD turn a blind eye.
- Somewhere between a Weird Trade Union and a Weird Secret Society is the League of British Bedsteadmen (a.k.a. the Society for Putting Broken Bedsteads into Ponds) from the Flanders and Swann song "Bedstead Men".
- "Casey Jones (The Union Scab)" has the Angels' Union No. 23, who get the title character kicked out of heaven when he continues his strikebreaking ways there.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Professional Thinking Persons opposed using the computer Deep Thought to find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything because, under law, the quest for Ultimate Truth was under their prerogative, and not the computer's. Their protest is withdrawn once the computer points out they can be "on the gravy train, for life" by switching to debates about what answer it will come up with 7.5 million years later. Besides, even they probably knew on some level that a national strike by philosophers was not a particularly dire threat.
- In one episode of Old Harry's Game, Satan's lieutenant Gary tries to usurp him, and seeks the assistance of the other demons. He gains their allegiance by promising a very union/business-like structure with working hours and perks such as better tormenting opportunities.
- In one episode of I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again a parody of "Song of the South" is held up by the representative of the division of Animals' Equity representing spiny anteaters, marsupials and other lower mammals, who demands that some of the parts should go to members of that division. Leading choruses of "B'rer Rabbit out! B'rer Platypus in!", he is successful, and when the production continues, not only does B'rer Platypus take the leading part, there's also one for B'rer Bandicoot.
- The tabletop RPG game 7th Sea has several major political factions, the largest of which is the Jennys' Guild, responsible for the welfare of sex workers across eight different countries. Though the majority of their members are "professionals", they have a semi-enlightened attitude to female empowerment for a world roughly corresponding to early Renaissance; obviously they don't use the word "feminist," but they say they're working for the betterment of all women. Of course, the faction's sheer size (it's the largest) and their wide-ranging...clientele means their top agents are the mistresses of kings and nobles, and the group could in theory wield a lot of power. Some supposedly have potions of immortality.
- The New World of Darkness has two non-comedic examples.
- In Hunter: The Vigil has the Union, a regional group (or "compact") of monster hunters made up primarily of blue-collar workers. The members of the Union might not be unionized in their day jobs, but the Union itself tends to function like one.
- In Vampire: The Requiem, the Carthian Movement, an attempt to modernize vampiric government and move it away from feudal systems, is known for forming unions in whatever territory it controls.
- In Genius: The Transgression we have the Union of Artifice who have started forming mad-scientist unions to provide living and laboratory space; Artificers are predominantly poor, while mad science is expensive.
- Similarly, there's the Malcolm T. Washington Fellowship, dedicated to African-American and African-Canadian Geniuses who work on oversized arthropods. Miraculously, when grant money gets involved, you can find a lot of smart, slightly crazy black guys who want to work with Big Creepy-Crawlies.
- Santa's Soldiers, a game that spoofs Christmas specials, has several. The most surreal of them is the Tooth Fairy Union, populated by balding, overweight men in tutus.
- In Fading Suns the Guilds are descendants of the corporations of the Second Republic and currently form one of the major powers in the known worlds. They include:
- The Urban Arcana setting for d20 Modern has the The International Guild of Laborers, a Monsters Union.
- Magic: The Gathering has Ravnica, the city of guilds, with ten guilds, each dedicated to a particular two-color combination of mana. They don't all act like traditional guilds, though. While the Golgari Swarm note , Izzet League note , and Simic Combine note do, there's also the Orzhov Syndicate note , Boros Legion note , Cult of Rakdos note , the Selesnya Conclave note , the Azorius Senate note , the Gruul Clans note , and House Dimir note note . Each one gets a game mechanic, and in lore, each is magically compelled on some level or another to fulfill their function.
- "Return to Ravnica", revisiting the setting several years later, has had the guilds undergo (for lack of a better term) Character Development in the interim. Among other changes, the Boros and Selesnya both have become Knight Templars; the Dimir are now a cross between the public library system, a Thieves' Guild, and homeland security; and the Rakdos are now in charge of most of Ravnica's entertainment and leisure industries, from carnivals to restaurants.
- Unions are obviously banned in Paranoia (since unions are a communist notion, and communism is treason) but there are groups of weird individuals with their own rules, obligations and entitlements. Of course, protests require official permission, unless you want to get blasted — though the game's logic dictates that even with permission, you'll probably still get blasted. It's not like union rules can actually prevent that happening. At least the paperwork will be in order.
- In Tales from the Floating Vagabond, players with the Bylaw Effect shtick start with membership in one of a number of trade unions with punny acronyms, such as the Bartenders' Ancient Brotherhood (BartAB), the Organization of Athletic Figures (OAF) or the Teamsters' Righteously United Kindred (TRUK).
- Most Dungeons & Dragons settings have at least a few guilds here and there, for assassins, thieves, mages, and whatnot. The Eberron setting is notable in that it has dragonmarked (think birthmarks that look like cool tattoos) houses that function as guilds for providing certain goods or services — banking, healing, mercenaries, smiths, travel... Depending on the individual involved, they might overlook "scabs" (i.e. adventurers) — but they are very wary of people manifesting "aberrant" dragonmarks — ones that don't conform in power or appearance to the twelve known ones... possibly because there used to be thirteen...
- The play Sheik, Rattle and Roll has the Forty Thieves being unionized. In a scene set in a harem they discover that the harem girls and eunuchs are also unionized, leading to an exchange of cards for the Amalgamated Thieves and Rogues Union, the Amalgamated Harem Girls and Dockers, and Amalgamated Eunuchs and Bacon Slicers (at which point every male character on stage crosses their legs. It's that kind of play).
- George S. Kaufman's children's-play sketch Mother Goose and the Golden Egg has the rhyme about "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" being interrupted by a succession of heavies from various unions, including the Pastry Makers' Union, which demands a real pie whose diameter has to be 6'3" to accommodate the "four and twenty standby blackbirds" that the Musicians' Union insists be hired.
- A "SimCity local 709 Burglar's Union" is mentioned in the Cat Burglar Chance Card in The Sims 2.
- Quest for Glory has a Fighters Guild and a Thieves' Guild.
- Kingdom of Loathing: The Brotherhood of the Smackdown, the League of Chef-Magi, and the department of Shadowy Arts and Crafts.
- Medieval II: Total War offers various guilds for Agents, such as an Assassin's Guild, amongst others. Very useful, as they increase the base experience of any Assassins (or other appropriate Agents, depending on the guild) trained in a city with a guildhouse. The free experience is well worth it.
- The Elder Scrolls games have a number of guilds, some officially recognized and some not, ranging from a fighters', mages' and thieves' guilds to an assassins' guild and the Dark Brotherhood, as well as more region-specific organizations with guild- or union-like organizations.
- In Loom every human character is a member of some guild and the story is set in "The Age of Great Guilds". The guilds we see are (spell)weavers, shepherds, glass-blowers, blacksmiths. They are effectively autonomous city-states, each specializing in some trade. The manual mentions many more guilds: embalmers, career politicians, assassins, umbrella openers, dancers, psychotherapists. Also it mentions the bloody 5-century war between undertakers and florists.
- Final Fantasy XIV:
- There's the Adventurers' Guild (which has members everywhere but leaves much of the actual direction of adventurers to other groups), as well as a separate guild for every single playable class in the game.
- The Rogues' Guild is surprisingly well-justified, set up to enforce Honor Among Thieves and housed in a building disguised as a convent for an apparently fictitious religious order.
- The Culinarians' Guild is run out of a prestigious restaurant.
- The Fishers' Guild has perpetual management problems because the guildmaster is always off somewhere fishing rather than working.
- The Alchemists' Guild has its own problems because it's run by a Mad Scientist obsessed with his own projects.
- Used for a quick gag in Batman: Arkham Knight. A bit of Enemy Chatter between two street thugs has one of them talking about Riddler firing his goons...without paying their severance. The second one gripes that he's saying for some time that the "muscle" in this town seriously needs to unionize.
- In Saints Row: The Third, the pimp Zimos reveals that his prostitutes ended up unionizing and forcing him to offer medical benefits and paid vacation time.
- A deleted scene from season 5 of Red vs. Blue apparently showed the ship that crashed into Blood Gulch did have a pilot, but he wouldn't fly them out because he was in the union and didn't have to do anything. This made him a hero to perpetual slacker Griff.
- The eponymous company in Evil, Inc. is a villains' union gone so far they don't actually participate in any real villainy anymore and just operate as a normal company. An arc even had the company bought out by the Legion of Justice, the Super Hero union (though the company was restored to its original ownership).
- In El Goonish Shive, the Distraction Union which the Demonic Duck belongs to.
- In Narbonic, the Henchmen's Union led by Titus Misanthropie; also, the Guild of Killer Robots, formed when Artie organized the Madbots to go on strike against their creator.
- This Skin Horse strip reveals the existence of a union for shadow-government employees. And that the Machine Union from Narbonic has evolved to include office supplies.
- Dungeons & Dragons adventurers in the Nodwick webcomic get their henchmen from the Henchmen's Union. Amongst their bylaws is one stating that they're not allowed to pass on unless there's no chance of their employers being able to cough up a resurrection spell and they can't quit their job no matter how much abuse they suffer. Not that they help much, what with their president being a hamster installed by the Adventurer's Guild. There's also their evil counterpart the Brotherhood of Evil Henchmen, led by Baphuma'al in disguise. Members of both guilds have special abilities related to their jobs: Henchmen can carry nearly unlimited weight so long as whomever they're working for tells them to move it somewhere, while Evil Henchmen have a supernatural ability to find and retrieve anything they're looking for.
- Ralph, the toad from Yamara, has mentioned his membership in a Familiars' Guild.
- The slave drivers union from The Order of the Stick is seen on strike.
- In Trigger Star, Hash belongs to the Offensive Ethnic Stereotypes Union (African-American chapter). He can actually be kicked out for displaying evidence that he's got an actual personality.
- Bob and George Author's union rules
- Averted in Sinfest. While Monique tried to Unionize the succubi, here, the results weren't very productive. Some days you just can't make a Deal with the Devil.
- Rumors of War: The Order of Orion is an adventurer's/explorer's/mining/entrepreneur's guild in a time when people still thought the sun was a chariot driven across the sky by a god. So yeah.
- In Misfile, Angelic Union rules mean the files that contain human lives must be periodically removed, read, then replaced.
- Similar to Evil, Inc., Sidekick Girl has the Superhero Agency and its unnamed Evil Counterpart.
- Chopping Block has "Psychos Local 616" union meeting on March 29, 2001.
- Unshelved: Buddy is a member of Funny Animal Workers 505. "You should see our main office in Orlando!"
- Ask a Ninja: Ninjas don't employ rabid squirrels because they're unionized and too expensive. Unfortunately, zombie chipmunks have proven to be a poor substitute.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has the Evil League of Evil for the supervillains, a Henchman's Union for, well, henchmen, and the Council of Champions for the superheroes.
- Mage Life: Have the Stone Guild, guess where their area of interest lie.
- A Grain of Truth has cloud-gatherers. The harvest clouds to stuff pillows with them.
- In the Archer episode "The Rock", the spy support staff (not the field agents) unionise but find their picket line is mistaken for a protest against the cleaners ISIS uses as a front. Also the cleaning staff had previously unionised but Malory had the elevator that they were in crash.
- The Venture Bros.:
- The Guild of Calamitous Intent is apparently an omnipotent conspiracy/trade union for all the villains seeking to conquer the world. Its regulations cover all manner of supervillainy, from deathtraps to dealing with police. They also provide services to heroes by matching them with appropriate and licensed villains. They do however set up strict rules for both protagonists and antagonists to follow.
- We eventually find out that the O.S.I. is supposed to handle other hero-related activities. Previously, their 'official' enemy was the Cobra-esque organization S.P.H.I.N.X. In the present time S.P.H.I.N.X. has disbanded and the O.S.I.'s official rival is now the Guild. Now that the Guild is public once again, O.S.I. is a support organization for protagonists, but they avert most of the other union characteristics.
- The trope is played even more literally in "The Doctor Is Sin". Dr. Venture admits that one of the reasons Venture Industries has not been productive is that it's a union shop and the workers have been on strike for years. So Dr. Killinger "negotiates" on his behalf with the "machine workers, nuclear engineering, and custodial super-science unions" and replaces his workforce with scabs.
- The Martian Commander's robot drones suddenly go on strike halfway through an episode of Duck Dodgers.
- The Simpsons
- Homer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs, and Nuclear Technicians.
- There are also examples of absurdly specific unions where one would normally expect their members to be a part of a larger more general union covering people in their line of work. Examples include: The Association of Newsroom Cue-Card Holders, the Piano Tuners Local 412, the Springfield Goat Milkers, and The Association of Theme Park Zombies.
- The 'Sack Stuffers Local 199' strike and cause a Springfield-wide food shortage. The strike gains the support of the shelf-dusters union.
- Lisa unionises the cheerleaders for the Springfield Atoms in "Labor Pains" and calls a strike. They are joined by their fellow unions, The Weather Girls local 143 and the United Federation of Ungrateful Au Pairs.
- In the Screwy Squirrel cartoon Lonesome Lenny, a chase between Screwy and Lenny is briefly and abruptly interrupted when the two stop to take a lunch break. As Screwy remarks, "Strong union."
- Daffy Duck uses the same line in Quack Shot, after Elmer Fudd catches a small fish and a large fish emerges from the water to tell him, "You catch one more fish and you're in trouble!"
- On The Ren & Stimpy Show, Stimpy walks out when the Sidekicks union calls a strike. Ren auditions scabs to replace him... from a scab union.
- The Netherlands' sex workers union is called the Red Thread. They are serious about being socialist. They are also one of the powerhouses of Dutch politics, and have done valuable work on issues like workplace safety, improved public health care and law enforcement reform.
- The International Union of Sex Workers and the International Collective of Prostitutes are other bodies campaigning for greater rights and protection for sex workers.
- The American equivalent is called COYOTE, or Call Off Your Old, Tired Ethics.
- The Livery Companies of the City of London (note the capital "C", i.e. just the historical City of London, excluding the wider London Metropolitan Area) are vestigial remnants of specific guilds, such as the haberdashers' or longbow-makers' or horse-doctors' unions, which industrialization and the passage of time have rendered obsolete. Today they largely exist as fraternities and/or benevolent organizations, though a few, such as the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, continue to exercise some regulatory authority over their relevant profession (i.e. notary), the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers is responsible for testing firearms for safe operation, the Apothecaries' Company offers pharmacy licensing and education, and the company of Goldsmiths currently oversees the technical aspects of the mint and the UK's version of the Bureau of Weights & Measures.
- Incidentally, like the above mentioned Guild of Seamstresses, the Worshipful Company of Bowyers (now a medical charity) still keeps a few actual longbow-makers on payroll to make bows for archery enthusiasts and movie propmasters. For the arrows however, you have to go to the Worshipful Company of Fletchers.
- Vestigial, but ongoing: there are Worshipful Companies of Information Technologists and Tax Advisors, the latter formed in the 21st century. These are established in part for the prestige they give to their members, but also because the Livery Companies — both the archaic ones which are effectively social clubs or charities completely divorced from their industries (if those industries even exist anymore) and the more modern ones — have an important role in the government of the City of London.
- The Freemasons are often believed to have been this. While their history in the centuries prior to the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England is scarce and mostly unknown, a common theory is that Freemasons descend from guilds of Masons in medieval Europe. Some have disputed whether stone masons were ever organized formally into guilds, and have criticized the suggestion that Freemasonry evolved out of such organizations as a trite myth, stemming merely from the fact that the fraternity uses stone masonry as the core allegory for the organization of its symbolism.
- There have been a variety of unions of people without jobs in the last 100 years. Sri Lanka has an Unemployed Aesthetic Graduates Union containing unemployed drama school graduates.
- There is a lobby for lobbyists.
- There is an anti-tax group called the National Taxpayers' Union. As you might've guessed, they oppose federal union activity on the grounds that paying federal employees more will cost the government more.
- There exist unions of rather esoteric membership which you wouldn't think should be in the same organization. For example, we have the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers (As in pulp mill employees and printing press operators) union of Canada. What exactly would those groups of employees have in common? In 2013, it merged with the Canadian Auto Workers union, at least having the decency to adopt a more ambiguous name - Unifor.
- Similarly, the United Auto Workers (fully, the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers) includes university employees, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (originally horse-drivers, now truckers and warehouse workers) includes pharmacists and some film production workers.
- Australia gets in on the act with the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) and the Communication and Electrical Plumbing Union.
- The Industrial Workers Of The World, possibly the only entity more inaccurately named than we are, has actually branched out into creating a chapter for the unemployed.
- About the name, while IWW was initially founded with industrial workers in mind they now embrace workers of all professions and will let anyone join as long as they are not a boss.
- The name doesn't refer to the type of workers they organize, but to their organizational strategy. Trade Unions organize based on trade- carpenters, plumbers, actors, etc; a workplace might have multiple unions representing different kinds of workers. Industrial unions, on the other hand, organize based on industry- construction, logging, retail, etc. A workplace organized industrially only has one union, which works better with the IWW's willingness to strike in order to bring business to a halt and long-term goal of overthrowing capitalism.
- The IWW Incarcerated Workers Organization Committee is seeking to unionize prisoners. It has lead several strikes, mostly in the US south (to be fair, prisoners in the US do a surprising amount of hard labor, generally for pittance pays of around a dollar or two per day, and failure to enroll in the "technically voluntary" work program may get a prisoner thrown into solitary confinement as punishment).
- Some perfectly modern trade unions and associations have their origins in distinctly odd institutions - the Bar Council of England and Wales is a perfectly normal and modern bar association, but its members are required to have been accredited by four "Inns of Court" (Grays, Lincoln's, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple) with traditions that haven't changed since about 1650. The four inns are separate organisations with their own particular brand of eccentricity in membership and rules.
- Football players at Northwestern University petitioned for, and were granted by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, the right to organize. Thus creating the possibility of a union of student athletes to lobby for pay (above and beyond scholarships)... something that the NCAA, which governs most student athlete programs, is dead set against. This is wholly different from the Student Union buildings on many college campuses, which is more of an activities center than an actual union.
- Founded in 1914, we have the Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters "George".