This article studies the rise of the modern labour technocrat within the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union, which developed in this period a large research, educational and publicity apparatus, a vibrant shop steward movement, and independence from the political parties of the labour movement. Intellectual work within the union at first aimed to encourage rank-and-file intervention in industry. A series of defeats and changing political relationships altered the focus of intellectual work to an alliance with Labor in government. Thus the union’s intellectuals took on a different role, that of technocratic expert. The rise of the modern labour technocrat- a new and dominant actor in the labour movement of the 1980s - was not inevitable. There was a contest over the place and role of the labour expert in the ‘modern union’ during the 1970s and 80s.