I found this short story on a libravox audio recording (science fiction collection, possibly set in a future dystopia), but I don't remember what it was called. It was about the union taking complete control of a company and losing contracts. It ended with a message about how there needs to be a balance between the unions and management. A lower level manager locked out the plans, but then the boss found plans for a wastebasket. Any help finding this story would be appreciated.

I know it was definitely one of the earlier librivox recordings, I know for sure it was released as recording before 2013.

  • What about this story is science fiction or fantasy?
    – Valorum
    Dec 30, 2017 at 1:42
  • 1
    @Valorum It was in a librevox science fiction collection, so science fiction. It felt like a future dystopia.
    – HSchmale
    Dec 30, 2017 at 1:50
  • I can think of a few, vaguely related SciFi stories involving union balance or related concepts as a central point -- Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll, and Asimov's Strikebreaker, but in neither case does the plot sound similar...
    – K-H-W
    Dec 30, 2017 at 1:50
  • @K-H-W The story was definitely on Earth. I remember there being a speech about how management need to keep the company healthy in the long term, and not just go after the quick buck, and that one over the shareholders who were the workers. I feel like the story was really old, but titanium was mentioned so it can't be too old.
    – HSchmale
    Dec 30, 2017 at 1:58
  • @user14111 It stood out to me because that was the plan that they managed to find. They manufactured a bunch of things for a lot of companies with titanium.
    – HSchmale
    Dec 30, 2017 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


I believe this is "Meeting of the Board" (1955), by Alan E. Nourse, readable online here. The premise of the story is that a union owns and controls the company Robling Titanium at the expense of the overworked, underpaid management. In desperation the management disables the computer system, leaving only one possibility for the union:

The shop steward's face lighted. "They slipped up, there. There was one program that hadn't been coded into the machines yet. Just a minor item, but it's a starter. We found it in Towne's desk, blueprints all ready, promotion all planned."

"Good, good," Torkleson breathed. "I have a directors' meeting right now, have to get the workers quieted down a bit. You put the program through, and give those electronics men three more hours to unsnarl this knot, or we throw them out of the union." He started for the door. "What were the blueprints for?"

"Trash cans," said Bailey. "Pure titanium-steel trash cans."

It took Robling Titanium approximately two days to convert its entire production line to titanium-steel trash cans. ...

In the end the management wins its fight with the union and makes a plea for moderation:

"You think that since you own the company, times have changed. Well, have they? Are you any better off than you were? Of course not. Because you haven't learned yet that oppression by either side leads to misery for both. You haven't learned moderation. And you never will, until you throw out the ones who have fought moderation right down to the last ditch. You know whom I mean. You know who's grown richer and richer since the switchover. Throw him out, and you too can be rich." He paused for a deep breath. "You want the code word to unlock the machines? All right, I'll give it to you."

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