Matt McCarten is one of NZs best unionists and civil rights activists. His wisdom and commentary are one of the few mainstream voices from the left. Few of us are important enough to have a wiki page, here is Matt’s…
McCarten started his political careeras a member of the Labour Party, but grew dissatisfied with the party’s direction under Minister of Finance Roger Douglas. Douglas was a strong promoter of free-market economics and deregulation, which McCarten and others saw as a betrayal of Labour’s roots.
NewLabour later joined with several other parties to form the Alliance – McCarten became president of this new party as well.
After the 1999 elections , the Alliance became the junior partner in a coalition government with Labour (which had now moved away from its programme of economic reforms). However, some members of the Alliance, including McCarten, felt that their grouping had made too many concessions to the more centrist Labour, and that the Alliance was abandoning its left-wing principles.
Eventually, a rift developed between McCarten (serving as the Alliance’s organisational leader) and Jim Anderton (serving as its political leader) – the party’s governing Council backed McCarten, but most of its MPs backed Anderton.
After a long and bitter dispute, Anderton and his supporters left the Alliance to found the Progressive Party in 2002, leaving McCarten’s faction in control of the Alliance.
The following year, McCarten himself assumed the political leadership from Harré. He was compelled to resign this position in November 2004, however, after becoming increasingly involved with campaign work for the new Maori Party. McCarten believed that the Alliance and the Maori Party were compatible, and that they should not regard each other as rivals, but this view was not shared by the members of either group. McCarten chose to leave the Alliance to focus on the Maori Party.
In early 2005, however, McCarten ended his association with the Maori Party as well, amid reports that he wanted to found a new working-class based party. In early 2005 Matt McCarten gained a mandate from the Unite Union to take its leadership as secretary.
Since then the Unite Union has won significant victories organising workers in New Zealand’s secondary labour market (“the working poor”). Its most significant victory came out of the supersizemypay.com campaign, in which it negotiated a collective agreement covering the 7,000 employees of Restaurant Brands Ltd (Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt). It continues to expand its coverage of low-paid workers in the fast-food, call-centre, security, hotel and hospitality industries, particularly in Auckland.
In April 2011, McCarten was appointed “interim” chair of Hone Harawira‘s new ‘Mana Party’.