Looking Back on Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s Union Episode

Rom hands his brother Quark a pad filled with union demands, as Leeta and the other bar workers look on behind him.

Rom and his fellow workers enter a really transient bargaining session.
Screenshot, Paramount

Deep House 9 did so many issues to look at the shadows solid within the Federation’s idealized utopia. In presenting its distinctly alien setting on the titular station—primarily staffed and lived on by non-Federation peoples—and in confronting the Federation’s place by means of battle and the cruel realities of post-war rebuilding, it challenged Star Trek to climate hardship and are available out the opposite aspect stronger and extra hopeful than ever. And maybe few tales nail fairly how uplifting it that’s than “Bar Affiliation.”

Star Trek‘s idealized imaginative and prescient of a united future hardly ever had the necessity to sort out labor rights. In any case, the Federation was a post-scarcity society—a person’s labor, whether or not it was signing up for the navy/diplomatic/scientific hodgepodge that was Starfleet, or operating your personal restaurant (as Captain Sisko’s personal father did), was supplied with out the necessity for monetary recompense, however as a substitute to serve for each private satisfaction and within the betterment of these round you. However Deep House 9‘s non-traditional setting allowed the franchise to sort out subjects that merely would not in any other case work by means of the lens of Star Trek‘s typical Federation heroes, and so season 4′s “Bar Affiliation”—which sees Max Grodénchik’s put-upon Ferengi bar assistant Rom determine he is had sufficient of his brother Quark’s abuse and varieties his personal employee’s union—gave us an opportunity to see the significance of labor rights even in a future as progressive Star Trek‘s.

Framed by means of the customarily comical relationship between the 2 brothers, “Bar Affiliation” slowly however absolutely radicalizes Rom to ideas which can be anathema to Ferengi tradition and its extreme, indulgent love of capitalism. After Quark docks Rome’s meager wages from working on the bar when he turns into sick on the job—collapsing mid-shift, a lot to his brother’s chagrin—the Ferengi realizes that his brother’s, and his personal, adherences to the “Legal guidelines of Acquisition” comes on the exploitation of these with out monetary leverage. Studying from figures like Sisko and Bashir (representatives of the Federation’s personal idealized method to labor), and O’Brien (who proudly totes his household’s pro-union historical past), Rom dives into the historical past of socialist employee actions, pushed additional and additional by his brother’s more and more merciless remedy of not simply Rom, however everybody who works for him at his bar. When Quark decides to uniformly reduce wages as a consequence of a quiet interval of commerce—telling Rom, Leeta, and all the opposite staff they’ll settle for the reduce or be fired—Rom lastly decides to step out of his brother’s shadow, convincing his fellow staff that collectively they’ll take a stand in opposition to Quark’s abuse and advocate for their very own selves by forming their very own union.

“Bar Affiliation” escalates largely by means of a private degree—it’s, before everything, a narrative about Quark and Rom’s relationship with one another, and the way the previous has uncared for his brother a lot that he is unable to see the latter step out of his shadow and take a deal with on his personal life earlier than his eyes. But it surely frames this brotherly battle by means of the labor points that Quark’s exploitation of his brother’s love has created, particularly after Quark tries to solid apart that relationship from his place of energy, telling Rom “On this bar, you are not my brother, you ‘re my worker, When he first learns that Rom intends to unionize the bar employees, an apoplectic Quark goes to his brother and tries to revive that relationship, providing Rom the person achieve of extra latinum in change for stopping his unionization effort—the one means Quark can view their relationship, a transactional price slightly than a familial one. He’s rebuffed by essentially the most highly effective leverage Rom has ever had over him: a self-actualized imagine in his price as a employee (with just a little assist from a well-known Marx quote).

Image for article titled Deep Space Nine's Union Episode Showed the Power of Solidarity in Sci-Fi

Screenshot, Paramount

As issues escalate additional—Brunt, a Ferengi Commerce Authority official performed with loving relish by DS9 stalwart Jeffrey Combs, is introduced in to violently bust Rom’s fledgling guild—the facility of that worth by no means falters. For the primary time in DS9we actually get to see Rom arise for himself and the function formed for him on the station by his brother’s exploitation, and the way find that price, he decides to not take the Ferengi stance of maintaining that worth to himself, however to leverage it to empower his pals and colleagues, As Quark’s makes an attempt to make use of holographic scabs to switch his hanging staff failand Federation officers like Sisko, Bashir, and O’Brien help Rom and his colleagues by refusing to cross the picket line on the bar, the facility of collective motion turns into clear not simply to the Ferengi, however everybody on Deep House matter how laborious issues get, regardless of how shut he involves dropping his brother ceaselessly, Rom finds energy in his solidarity in a means that’s genuinely transformational for the character.

Brunt’s brutal escalation—and the way he even activates Quark within the course of—sees “Bar Affiliation” finish with the dissolution of Rom’s union, however not in a tragic means. In change for formally shuttering the union so the FCA will get off Quark’s again, he agrees to all of Rome’s calls for efficient by the top of the week: securing higher wages, assured paid sick go away, and fewer exploitative hours for all the bar employees. And whereas it is maybe not true to actual life union drives—the place contracts should be negotiated time and time once more, and one-off enhancements do not instantly finish labor disputes—it really works for Rom’s private arc on Deep House 9, because the drive permits him to take inventory of his place on the station. He quits working on the bar, becoming a member of the Bajoran engineering crew on the station as a technician, following his ardour for know-how. His work on the union brings him nearer to Dabo lady Leeta, setting the stage for his or her eventual romance. And above all, Rom begins to see himself as his personal particular person, outlined by issues past his affiliation together with his brother.

Image for article titled Deep Space Nine's Union Episode Showed the Power of Solidarity in Sci-Fi

Screenshot, Paramount

Deep House 9 or Star Trek at massive might by no means have returned to look at labor points as keenly because it did after “Bar Affiliation” aired, and by no means had the prospect to point out the work of labor actions as steady, enduring acts of solidarity, outlined not by single victories however repeated vigilance . However even then, in exhibiting the worth of unions, it championed one in every of Star Trek‘s most ardent of beliefs: that the wants of the numerous outweigh the wants of the few, and that there’s energy in standing collectively to enhance the lot of all.

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