The late James Larkin was an Irish Trade unionist who was dedicated to fighting for fair working conditions of employees. He was born on January 21, 1876, in Liverpool England. Jim came from a humble background, and his parents could not even afford to pay for his formal education. As a youth, he worked as a manual laborer in various companies before becoming a foreman for Liverpool Docks.
In 1905, Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Labourers, NUDL and served as a full-time trade union organizer. After two years of serving in NUDL and organizing several strikes, the union transferred him to Dublin.
Despite receiving opposition from his union on his strike action schemes, Larkin went ahead to launch Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU which organized many other demonstrations and led in reforms of employment terms. James formed the union for his fellow Irish men who served as industrial workers.
The association incorporated both skilled and unskilled workers and fought for their welfare. Larkin launched a political program of the union which advocated for pensions for every worker who is beyond 60 years of age, legal 8 hours’ day and work provision for the unemployed.
Jim teamed up with James Connolly to form the Irish Labour Party in 1912. ILP is another party that has led several strikes in Ireland. The party led the famous 1913 Dublin Lockout which saw over 100,000 workers go on strike for over half a year. Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography
This industrial action yielded the right to fair employment for all. Jim and his union received criticism, especially from the Irish Press. However, he still received massive support from many including William Butler Yeats, Constance Markievicz, and Patrick Pearse.
During an industrial dispute in 1913, Jim’s speech moved Constance Markievicz in a big way. Markievicz described him as a great primal force. W.B Yeats too wrote a poem as a commentary on the 1913 Dublin lockout. All through his socialism journey Larkin employed sympathetic strikes as well as boycotting of goods to bring solutions.
In 1914, Larkin traveled to the US for a lecture tour and to acquire funds for the war against the British. This migration occurred at the outbreak of First World war. However, when away, James still served as the general secretary of ITGWU.
In the United State, Jim continued to participate in socialism. He joined the Socialist Party of America based in New York and also the Industrial Workers of the World. He managed to transform the socialist party into a communist party. After five years of his stay in America, Larkin was found guilty of communism and criminal anarchy.
He was arrested during the red scare of 1919 in the US and served a three years jail term in Sing Sing before being deported back to his homeland, Ireland. Back in Ireland, he founded the Workers’ Union of Ireland, WUI in 1924. In the 1930s James Larkin joined the Catholic Church mobilization against communism. He continued to participate in labor organizations until his death in the late 1940s.