The trade unionist hero: Jim Larkin

James Larkin, alias Big Jim was a devoted socialist and activist who believed in better treatment of laborers. He is well known for his push for fair treatment of workers in Ireland and for founding the biggest trade union in the region. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

James was born to Irish parents in Liverpool, England on 21st January 1876. He grew up in poverty in the slums of Liverpool and as a result acquired little formal education. From a young age, Larkin had to do a variety of jobs to add-on to the family income.

In 1905 he became a full-time organizer for the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL).The union transferred him to Dublin where he organized strikes for workers and he was expelled. In 1908 he founded the popular Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). The organization accommodated both skilled and unskilled workers since unskilled workers had very few rights at the time.

Larkin’s action methods were through boycotts and strikes. In 1913 he organized a very successful seven-month strike in Dublin Lockout. This strike by over hundred thousand workers saw them earn the right to fair employment to unskilled laborers. At the onset of the First World War, he discouraged the Irish men to participate in the war and to only fight for their land.

In 1914 he went to the United States where he started a career in public speaking although he still held a position in ITGWU as general secretary. He was later convicted of communism and criminal anarchy in America. He spent years in prison after which he was deported back to Ireland.

Back in Ireland he established Workers’ Union of Ireland and joined Irish Labor Party where he worked until his death in 1947. Remarkably, James Larkin was a true believer in fair treatment of workers and their rights.

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