Marc Blitzstein describes the plot

The plot of No For An Answer deals with a club of Greek-American workers in the U.S.A. It is a workers' social club; not a social workers' club. Its quarters are the back room of a roadside lunchcounter two miles outside Crest Lake, a summer resort. Nick Kyriakos owns and runs the lunchcounter, and he has made the big barn-like room attached to it into the clubroom. The members are the people employed during the season in town: waiters, hotel-workers, restaurant-workers, chefs, laundresses, chambermaids, taxi-drivers. They are now, most of them, without work. The time of the play is around September 15, just after the summer season has closed; the hotels are boarded up, shops and bars closed; a skeleton town, a town like a morgue, waits for next summer. Some of the workers have followed the trade to Atlantic City, Miami, the mountains; but some are forced to stay on. These are the ones we find coming to the Diogenes Club - for comfort, hope, company, enough morale to last out the winter. They hold conversations, meetings, study-classes, socials, card-games, and especially chorus rehearsals. Being Greek-Americans, they equip the action with a Greek Chorus of singing waiters, who keep us informed of plot developments.

It is the life and fate of the Diogenes Club and its little people which forms the opera; tragic episodes, comic interludes, individual love stories, plans, anguish, determinations, setbacks, triumphs. The Club is having a hard time to survive. There is almost total unemployment; besides, the hotel owners' Resort Association, fearing the threat of a union (aliens and a group spirit are an "alarming" combination), worry and harry the Club, and launch an offensive which culminates in the murder of Joe, the Club's leader, and the burning of the Club. This is the main thread.

Then there is also the story of Paul and Clara Chase. Paul is a youngish rich intellectual, who fancies he sympathizes with the workers in their struggle, and wishes to lead them. Really he is a trapped liberal, given to heavy drinking, who finally succumbs to the pressure and pull of his conditioning. His wife, Clara, is drawn into the Club's problems because of Paul's espousal of them; she is a rich girl, sister of a Congressman, who has always believed, without investigation, in the actuality of freedom and democracy in America. She finally emerges into a dawning consciousness of how real is the persecution of little people going on about her.

The opera centers about Joe, who has returned from a Georgia prison term; Nick Kyriakos, his Father, who "insists" America be the truly democratic country he dreamed of; Francie, Joe's girl; the other members of the club; and Paul and Clara. When Joe is killed, and the Club is set on fire, the little handful of new "refugees" are left with nothing but their spirit, their song: "No For an Answer." At the end, Nick, with incalculable courage, begins over the dead body of his son to "plan for tomorrow." The chorus behind him catch the fire in his voice; they start slowly to sing the final song as he doggedly, methodically, itemizes small gains; a meeting to be held at such a place, a collection to be taken up, a mimeograph machine to be rescued from the fire. The little people will go on.