I've been occasionally tweaking a story for a long time. It's set in a bleak future that looks at a glance like a libertarian dream of total economic freedom, but under the layers of consumerism and beyond the throngs of those enjoying the "freedom of economic failure," the naked reality is the total realization of neo-conservative goals; total corporate hegemony, a new kind of institutionalized class system where economic mobility is restricted, and there is only equality, justice, and freedom for those who can afford it. One element is that the characters find themselves adjusted to a world completely without balance, with the only checks and balances against the over-reach of corporate power being economic forces, and the economy being entirely under the control of a handful major corporations.
It's easier and easier to imagine a world without unions. Only one union super-pac made the list of top ten biggest political contributers - and it was the only super-pac among the top ten giving to democratic and liberal candidates. No wonder the destruction of unions is the top priority of the Grand Old Machine, a Tea-Party hijacked Republican party seeking total domination at any cost.
The top Republican contributors are also naturally anti-union because of the industries they come from, which can stand to save good money if allowed to get away with revoking safety standards or labor laws. Sheldon Adleson, the Waltons, the Kochs, they all have a problem with an organization that will collectively bargain with the power of an effective strike as leverage. So it makes sense that supporting politicians that pass anti-union bills becomes a priority.
And so it is that in this modern world, with unions on the defensive and unable to outspend Republicans in our democracy where the winner is whoever spends the most, that you can have a situation like Catapiller Co., which has instituted a 6 year hiring freeze and 6 year pay raise freeze for the workers despite the fact that it got over 4 billion in profit last year, already posted 1.5 billion in profit just this quarter, and gave the CEO a 60% profit. Or like the recent coal mining disaster at a mine run by <html="http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/23/massey_energy_guilty_west_virginia_probe">Massey Energy</a>, a company run by a major Republican contributor that has been tough on unions, that had gotten complaints from union workers about the mine being unsafe, and despite regulators being called upon to shut the mine down and the dozens of small fines the company paid because of violating safety guidelines... still, 29 died.
Unions, love them or hate them, are an important countervailing force against unbridled greed. Without unions, there is no one to stand up to the bosses and say, "no, actually, this is the wrong way to save money for the company."