I've got a simple organisation in my world, one that basically arose as a way to push back for the sake of the worker. While I've got a rough idea of their history and the general aesthetic I'm going for here (rough, unruly group who looks after their own).

However, I'm trying to work out how such an organisation might be structured internally. The setting is far future, people living in the ashes of prior civilisations - so medieval or modern examples could both be quite useful.

The context for this organisation is that in a fairly isolated settlement, there is a quarry that extracts both rock and fragments of ancient technology - this organisation was formed out of strife between the owners of this quarry and other organisations interested in its wealth and the people responsible for digging it out. Their early history is tied to strikes to try to ensure safety / better conditions, and they're probably a little towards the militant end union-wise.

I find myself a bit stumped here - how might such a group organise themselves?

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    $\begingroup$ How developed / strong is your guild or union? Labor unions in the modern day are VASTLY different from each other. Some unions are not very strong, just a committee of workers representing the others on CLA negotiations, some are large / organized enough to even offer "member services" like legal and financial advice, health and wellness, discounts... $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2021 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ Is it so very hard to read about the history, the structure and the workings of the Teamsters? (And I shudder whenever I read about a "guild" "push[ing] back for the sake of the worker". Guilds were essentially monopolistic cartels. There is a reason why organized labor uses words such as "union", "league" or "syndicate" and never uses the word "guild".) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 12, 2021 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Is it so very hard to respond to a post with something other than a condescending frame challenge? You've written hundreds of comments just like this, seizing on some trifling terminological flaw to heap scorn on the OP (though here you're incorrect; several modern unions still use the label 'guild', including the NZ Merchant Service Guild and various Writers' Guilds). Perhaps I'm being rude, but isn't the point of this site to help people, not to sneer at them for not being as smart as you? You're clearly a very knowledgeable guy, but good heavens, never was learning worn more heavily. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2021 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ What about the Screen Actors Guild? $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2021 at 17:09

3 Answers 3



The lowest rank are stewards. The role of stewards is to be the case officer for specific concerns raised by the membership. Stewards are authorized in the labor agreement with the business to speak to the business on the members’ behalf.

There is then the executive staff (for the local office)

A President or chairperson runs meetings. He or she is charged with making sure the meeting starts and stops, that any rules about how people are acknowledged during meetings are followed, and generally making sure that the meeting is productive.

A Treasurer usually collects dues, pays staff and other expenses, and keeps the banking accounts and credit lines.

Other offices: Vice President, Sergeant at Arms, Auditor, are optional and may or may not be in any particular local group.

In most cases, all of the above offices are selected by election from the membership.

The regional or national branch is organized similarly , but handles issues raised by lower level branches, and may work with a higher level branch.


The history of unions have a few root causes, in England it was centuries of social class structure leading to heavy industry abusing, even killing, their workers until they. the workers, organised revolts agains their employers.

In Russia there was an even longer history of abuse dating all the way back to the Mongol invasion but the impetus to social change was driven by intellectuals returning from overseas educations with a new theory of economic reform that was then coopted by people responding to the abuse of the tax paying middle class and the peasant class farmers by the Tsar.

wheeuu .. that sentence just grew that way .. how do these differences mutate into organisational structures? In England there is a long history of pragmatism, cooperation, and consensus based decision making that led to people in union meeting halls pooling their knowledge of whom they could ask to do certain functions and/or certain people stepping up to just take over a task that needed doing. Socialism was a useful tool for those organising unions, but was not driving the movement as much as the need for improvements in industrial safety and wages.

The Russian model of social reform was created by aristocratic intellectuals who had no interest in consensus building and the thugs they got to act as their enforcers, helped along by the dire threat that Germany posed in both world wars. And no I am not ignoring the thousands of Russian people from all walks of life who were devout believers in Socialism and were desperate for a solution to the harsh treatment they had at the hands of the Tsar, the aristocrats, the army, and the tax collectors.

The modern day Russian government is largely modelled on the tribute state model that the Mongols installed at sword point and so is very much a top down structure with one Strong Man at the very top. The second important factor is that military force was always used by the powerful against the weak and everybody got used to the model of command from above, subservience from below.

Stalin showed how to use the communist party to control the unions and the government to solidify his rule, and Putin has proven to be a master of the modern version. The party dictates how the unions actually operate to create the illusion of grass roots support for what the ones at the top want to do. And the unions offer a huge number of well paying positions as rewards for people the leaders want to repay for favours rendered. With union membership being a requirement, and party membership being highly desirable, unions are clearly organised to support the purposes of the few at the top of the heap and offer little or no benefit to the working people.

Please note the the reason that unions often become arms of organised crime is the alignment of people organising a crime ring as a response to chronic inequities and prejudicial treatment with worker groups that organise to obtain bargaining power against the industries that are exploiting them. The criminals exploit the power that successful unions create, and thus the money they control, in a sort of beneficial exploitation. When it is a benevolent hijacking at least .. unfortunately the mob is not known for its kindness to those it sucks the blood from.


oh crap .. I just reread your question. You asked about a Guild, not a union. Guilds are different.

Guilds are organised by the master craftsmen that control a specialised branch of technology, keeping their knowledge (intellectual property) secret, their membership in line during their training, and punishing non-members who try to operate a business using any part of the technology controlled by the guild.

Another factor is that guilds are legal entities that are created by royal decree in a monarchy, or by some government body in a more complex form of government. The masters of a craft petition their overlord for the right to be the sole operators of a particular technology, and will either offer some regular payment or have a tithe demanded of them, depending on how nice the powerful craftsmen play with their overlord.

so maybe this answer is closer to the mark than my first one.


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