1 The Longshoremen S Union

The Longshoremen’s Union is a fixture on the wharves. Operating out of an unassuming storefront facing the wharves, a visitor wouldn’t know this group employs every sweating stevedore unloading the ships on the wharves. The truth is, anyone who wants work on the wharves must join the union. Those who don’t and think they can get away with not paying their dues face a cordial but firm welcoming committee who clarifies the need for joining the brotherhood. Woe to those who refuse. A person has one chance to join. If they don’t, they’re beaten— and if they still refuse, they disappear. Those fools who try to break the union with scabs, or try to cut union wages, are in for a full-scale strike—one that effectively shuts down the city. Thus, no one crosses the Longshoremen’s Union.

Usually, these bruisers are locals with a reason to stay on dry land—strong family ties, a surreptitious weak stomach, or just a desire to live a normal life. They’re big and burly, but while they blow off some steam now and again, they don’t raise the same kind of ruckus visiting sailors do. Freeport is their home, after all, not just a way station.

Among the movers and shakers of Freeport, there’s a lot of scorn directed at the Longshoremen. The Captains’ Council and no few local merchants decry the union, claiming it is little more than a gang of thieves and extortionists, worse than the cutpurses haunting the rest of the Docks. Despite the mutterings of the elite, the Longshoremen are in fact one of the few honest organizations in town. This wasn’t always the case. For years, the Longshoremen’s Union was a joke. The bosses lined their pockets with sweetheart deals that left the workers out in the cold. While these corrupt officials got rich, and ship captains paid starving wages to the workers to off-load their ships, the people of the Docks suffered. So long as the Captains’ Council got their cut, they ignored the plight of the stevedores and longshoremen, allowing the exploitation and terrible conditions to persist.

Everything changed about a decade ago. Poppy Bragg, a member of the union, emerged as a force of nature. Dissatisfied with his pay and disgusted by the corruption riddling the upper levels of the organization, he championed the cause of the worker and fought his way to the top. He built a union to be feared and respected. He met with merchants and ship owners and laid down the law, tearing up the old contracts and hammering out tough new ones. At the same time, he insisted his members pull their weight—he’d make sure everyone could eat, he was fond of saying, but he’d be damned if he’d let anybody get fat.

The Longshoremen’s Union has a small office that fronts the wharves. Plain and serviceable, the offices are merely functional. Bragg refuses to let union funds go toward beautifying the place, and so long as the organization sustains itself, he’s content. The building is two stories, with a meeting hall on the main floor, along with an office and a records room where the union keeps its contracts and funds in a thick iron vault. A staircase leads upstairs to more storage rooms and offices. The only thing that separates this building from those around it is a white flag hanging out front bearing a red silhouette of a muscular man pulling on a rope.

Prominent Characters
Poppy Bragg: For thirty years, Poppy Brag worked on the wharves, unloading cargo and living the life—and reaping the benefits of its generally corrupt, complacent union. The leaders signed deals that looked good on the surface but short-changed their workers in the long haul, leaving them without pensions or other provisions for old age. Bragg, like everybody else, knew deep down things couldn’t last, but who wanted to go up against entrenched leaders? Life’s too short to make waves.

Then Bragg met Emaya Passos, a sailor’s daughter and a bit of a militant. She was just as tough and plain spoken as any of the dockworkers Bragg had known, and she had seen a lot in her time. Freeport was an embarrassment, she believed; the upper classes were decadent, and that base behavior had wormed its way down to the wharves. She was the moral compass Bragg had been waiting for his whole life. They married, and within five years, he’d fought his way to the top of the union. Through sheer force of will, and the occasional judicious use of force, he built a network of allies and gave the dead wood their walking papers.

Poppy may be in his mid-fifties, but he doesn’t look it. He’s short, stocky, and made of solid muscle. His hands are calloused and skin weathered. His dark eyes are quick and alert, and when angry, he hasthe look of a fanatic. He wears a thick sweater, breeches, and woolen cap. He always has a cudgel on hand to make sure people understand him properly.

Mother Passos: The daughter of a hardened sailor, Emaya Passos is a tough, no-nonsense woman who wastes no time on frivolities. She’s as invested in the union as her husband, and she makes just as many speeches and is more than capable of knocking a few heads around if necessary. She can’t stand corruption and has little use for the pampered nobility in the Old City and Merchant District, seeing them as Freeport’s problem, not its solution.

The Longshoremen have taken to calling her Mother, since she’s always watching out for them. Emaya looks a great deal like her husband. She’s short and stocky with broad, ruddy features. She has long brown hair, but she keeps it pulled back, tight on her scalp. She favors the breeches and sweaters of the workers, which the delicate ladies find scandalous.

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