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As President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions until 1999 Douglas led the union movement in New Zealand for over fifteen years. His union career started in the Driver's Union. He was also leader of the Socialist Unity Party in the 1970s and 1980s and stood for Parliament on occasion, never gaining more than 100 votes in the Porirua electorate.
Since his retirement from the CTU Douglas has been active in local politics as a Porirua City Councillor (1998-), Porirua Licensing Trustee (2001-2007) and elected member of the Capital and Coast District Health Board (2001-2010). Douglas has served on boards of Air NZ, NZ Post, NZ Trade and Enterprise, New Zealand Rugby Union and Healthcare NZ. Ken married Lesley and they had four children, Jane, Peter, Helen and John.
An acknowledged Marxist, Douglas has moved to the right over the last two decades and currently sits on the NZRU Board. He is also chairperson of Positively Wellington Business and a board member of the Asia NZ Foundation. He is widely respected across a very broad political spectrum of notable individuals for his capacity to see complex issues and their practical solutions in straightforward terms.