Danny the Red

December 8, 2010

Don Franks

Because he once stood against Tom Skinner for FoL president, Danny Nichols will always rate at least  a footnote in bourgeois labour movement history.

Which is more than most other shop floor militants get, because so much of our working class history never makes the scholarly pages. But it’s a simple fact that to thousands of Hutt Valley workers, their Danny the Red is literally remembered as a central figure of the last century.

Dennis Allan Nichols came from a dirt poor London working class family to seek a better life in New Zealand. In the late 1960s he got a job at Ford’s Lower Hutt car plant and for a while just kicked back and enjoyed the job security, relatively good pay and nice climate. He had an easy operation in charge of the phosphate machine and like other class savvy British immigrants, he made a comfortable niche for himself in the softer kiwi job environment.

But as time went on, Danny  began to register the various injustices visited on less clued up workers in the unorganised plant. In those days there was no active union on site and foremen could and did sometimes clip a worker over the ear if he or she didn’t jump to it fast enough. Danny started making a few waves and began to revive the then defunct Coach and Motor Body Workers Union . In the course of this Danny got talking to union officials in the pub. Two of those officials were Ken Douglas and Pat Kelly. Ken suggested that the new fledgling car plant activists be delivered up to the Engineers Union. Pat came down to the plant and helped develop the Coach Workers into a radical independent job organisation. The main ingredients were a number of inexperienced but militant  Maori line workers and Danny’s extraordinary leadership. Read the rest of this entry »


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