Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S04E16 – Bar Association

In the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, Rom challenges Quark. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

This episode is downright adorable, and I don’t mean that as a way to dismiss what Rom does here. I just love how sincere it is. It is a very basic primer for why unions are needed, how to form one, how to make demands, how to strike, and what to expect from others. How will your employer react? How will patrons of that business react? How will random strangers deal with you? In turn, each of these aspects are addressed by “Bar Association,” so I think I’ll use that as a rubric to discuss this episode.


I feel like the “why” of this story is perhaps the easiest to answer. For three and a half seasons, Quark has treated his brother and the other employees of his bar terribly. It’s no secret! Everyone knows it, and it’s largely been a running joke this entire time. We also knew that Quark would frequently exploit his employees if it meant that he’d make a higher profit. The events in the cold open are only a reminder of that behavior, and I’m sure this was not the first time that Quark denied someone time off to see the doctor SO THAT THEY WOULDN’T DIE.

This was an unsustainable arrangement, and Rom passing out on the job was the last straw.


Yet even with such horrific experiences under his belt, Rom can’t fathom doing much of anything to counter his brother’s tyrannical rule. I found it hilarious that Julian’s off-hand suggestion of forming a union is what inspired Rom, as well as O’Brien’s tale of his ancestor striking in Pennsylvania. Yet an inspiration isn’t enough because unions and strikes are more than just forbidden on the Ferengi homeworld. As far as I could tell, none of the Ferengi had ever seen a union or a strike in their lives. The Ferengi Commerce Assocation has certainly seen to that. Mirroring real-life organizations, the FCA acts to instill fear in the lives of the workers, making them feel so intimidated and so terrified of losing their jobs that they never act on their grievances. That’s why unions are so important and vital within a capitalist system: it allows them to have a collective bargaining power for negotiations.

It was a delight watching Rom turn into a little revolutionary through this. He has a knack for inspiring others! His speech to convince everyone to form a union is fantastic, and it also made me super excited to see how this would turn out.

Demands / Strikes

In the end, the demands that the workers asked for were incredibly reasonable. A raise. Less hellish hours. Time off for medical needs. Paid vacation. These things are the basic standards of decency that (most) societies value, and it’s the Ferengi culture that’s still in the past. Rom was firm in presenting his demands to Quark, and he didn’t back down when Quark rudely dismissed them without a second thought. When Quark did this, Rom stayed committed: he then had the union strike. And there’s no denying that this was an effective tactic! The immediate affect it had was that Quark was forced to use a badly-implemented holographic system to handle what little customers he had. (Which was even lower anyway because of the Bajoran cleansing ritual.)

Quark was pissed and desperate. Most of the patrons of the bar, though, were supportive of the strike, and I wonder if this was because strikes and unions resonated with the Bajorans on the station. For the Starfleet officers, they might have been a reminder of a time in Earth history where strikes and unions were needed. I wasn’t surprised that Quark was willing to bribe Rom to stop the strike, though. There was something innately familiar to me. Of course Quark wouldn’t dream of giving that money to all of the strikers; a quiet bribe in private quarters is more his speed.

However, I was most intrigued by how the FCA would react to this, particularly since we knew how brutal Brunt was. In the FCA, there are plenty of real-world examples I could give – governments, business, lobbyists, the list goes on – that parallel what Brunt threatens these people with. It’s important to note that just asking to be treated better threatens the FCA so much that they threaten to decimate these people’s lives. Strip them of wealth, punish their families, degrade them… it’s such a horrifying reaction, isn’t it? YET THIS IS BARELY, BARELY FICTION. Beating up Quark??? THIS ISN’T NEW.

So I was surprised that Rom got what he wanted after Brunt threatened them. Gods, it is such a cool message for the show! Quark found a way to placate the FCA while giving the workers what they wanted. And in the end?








The video for “Bar Association” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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