James Larkin was a highly respected labor activist and organizer who was committed to advocating for the rights of workers in Ireland. He established one of the country’s largest labor union that was known as the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU).
Larkin was the leader of the organization as from 1907 to 1914 when he traveled to the United States. He was an enthusiast Marxist who ensured that all the worker were treated fairly.
Larkin spent most of his childhood in the shanty settlements of Liverpool, England. He came from a disadvantaged family, and therefore, never got a chance to attend good schools. Jim had to look for casual jobs to raise money for himself and his family. His career as a labor activist started when he was hired as a foreman at the Liverpool dock.
Being a committed socialist, Jim felt that the dock’s workers were not being treated well by their employers. He registered to join the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) and was recognized as one of the most active trade unionists by 1905.
During his tenure as an NUDL member, James led industrial action by using militant methods that were not very popular. In 1907, the union transferred him to Dublin. While living in the city, he started the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union with a primary goal of bringing together all the skilled and unskilled employees who served Irish Industries. Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography and The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin
After a few years, Larkin established the Irish Labor Party, which was recognized countrywide for staging several strikes. The most significant industrial action that was led by the labor activist was the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Over 100,000 dock workers stopped going to work for eight months, and this made their employers to offer them better conditions.
Jim was also known for leading large anti-war protests across Dublin to stop World War I. He believed that the war would have a negative impact on the country.
Jim Larkin later decided to support the Ireland unions in acquiring funds. He traveled to the United States and joined the Socialist Party of America. The trade unionist was also part of the Industrial Workers of the World Union and a passionate supporter of the Soviet Union.
The United States government jailed him in 1920 for criminal anarchy and communism but was pardoned and deported in 1923. When he arrived in Ireland, Larkin created the Workers Union of Ireland. His commitment made him be appreciated by the Communist International in 1924.
In 1941, the Ireland government passed a bill that supported the restructuring of trade unions in a way that would affect small union and Ireland-based British Unions. James led WUI in protesting against the legislation, but he was not successful. He joined the Labor Party as its deputy after the law was approved.
Larkin kept protecting the rights of the Irish workers until when he died at the Meath Hospital in 1947. The people of Dublin still recognize him as a historical figure for his outstanding work as a trade unionist.