Workers in the Margins

Union Radicals in Post-War New Zealand

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Print publication:

eBook publication:

Pages: 260

RRP: $49.99

ISBN: 9781927131398

ISTC: A0220120000214A4

DOI: 10.7810/9781927131398

Out of print. 

‘Marginalised’ workers of the late twentieth century were those last hired in times of plenty and first fired in times of recession. Often women, Māori, or people from the Pacific, they were frequently unemployed, and marginalised within the union movement as well as the labour force.

Workers in the Margins tells the story of these workers in the tumultuous years of post-war New Zealand. These were years characterised by massive changes in the workforce, as it expanded to accommodate a growing urban Māori population and an increasing desire for women to enter paid work. The world of trade unions and employment conflicts, such as the 1951 waterfront lockout, was vigorous and challenging. As free-market policies deregulated the labour market and splintered the union movement toward the end of the century, Te Roopu Rawakore o Aotearoa, the national unemployed and beneficiaries' movement, gave a new voice to ‘workers in the margins’.

The people of this history come to life through oral histories – from the poet (and boilermaker) Hone Tuwhare building a palisade at Orakei through to activists Sue Bradford and Jane Stevens working with the unemployed in the 1980s and ’90s. Their experiences speak to the lives of many workers of the early twenty-first century.

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Introduction – Workers in the Margins

1. Māori Union Men, their Socialist Comrades, and the Freezing Workers’ Unions, 1943–1978
2. Private-sector Union Women, their Feminist Comrades, and the Trade Union Movement, 1955–1981
3. Organising Unemployed Workers’ Unions, 1978–1985
4. Union Allies Divide: Political Independence and Māori Sovereignty, 1984–1987
5. Union Strategies in Hard Economic Times, 1985–1990
6. Busted Unions and Painful Renewals, 1990–1994

Afterword